Originally created 02/29/04

Tour, players go extra step for sponsors



CARLSBAD, Calif. - Hank Kuehne started the day only three shots off the lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and ended it with an 80. He bolted off the course and headed straight to which of the following:

a.) a courtesy car waiting to whisk him away.

b.) the edge of the 18th green to jump off a cliff.

c.) a hospitality tent for a meet-and-greet session with corporate sponsors.

Having already suffered through six hours on the course at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the former U.S. Amateur champion spent nearly an hour with guests and clients of Franklin Templeton.

Kuehne has plenty of company this year.

PGA Tour players are going to greater lengths to make sure the people footing the bill - corporate sponsors - are getting their money's worth.

"We started working with our players last year in terms of the need to over-deliver for our sponsors," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.

"In an era when costs have gone up, we need to generate more value. We want the strongest possible customer satisfaction."

The pleasant surprise is that the tour isn't having to twist arms.

The four major champions - Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel - attended a corporate reception at the Mercedes Championships, along with defending champ Ernie Els.

Peter Jacobsen and Fred Funk were the featured guests at a pro-am party during the Sony Open.

Chad Campbell, Steve Pate, Jay Delsing, Olin Browne and David Morland were among nine players who went to a cocktail reception for Chrysler and its VIPs during the Bob Hope Classic.

Texans Mark Brooks and J.L. Lewis took part in a cooking competition during the FBR Open in Phoenix.

"We all have a responsibility to help out," Weir said. "We're lucky to be playing for a lot of money. The sponsors are putting up a lot of money, and they want a little value out of it.

"You don't want to take, take, take all the time."

It's called the "Player Involvement Program," and it comes at a time when everything appears to be running smoothly on and off the golf course.

Last year, an annual report compiled by the Sports Business Journal, ranked the PGA Tour No. 1 in overall sponsor satisfaction.

Finchem wants to make sure it stays that way.

"He's always trying to make the players realize - and he should - that making sure sponsors are happy is a very big priority out here," said Brad Faxon, who's on the PGA Tour Policy Board. "He likes the fact we're either No. 1 or No. 2 in all the surveys for sponsor satisfaction.

"The answers he's getting (from sponsors) is, 'We need to be closer to the players.' "