Is the Celeb. Sponsor's Exemption Getting Out of Hand?
12 Feb 2018
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

Country star Jake Owen will play the Web.com event in Nashville this May
Country star Jake Owen will play the Web.com event in Nashville this May

CARLSBAD, Calif. (Feb. 12, 2018) -- At AmateurGolf.com, we love the fact that the competitive game gives even the longest of longshots the chance to do something otherworldly. Remember John Daly, coming in as an alternate at the 1991 PGA and winning?

Nowhere is this more prevalent than at a U.S. Open, or Open Championship, where amateurs and club professionals can earn their way in and challenge the world's best. Heck, it was just a few years ago in 2015 when Irishman Paul Dunne held the 54-hole lead at St. Andrews.

Last year, the San Francisco Bay Area (and the world of social media) was buzzing about Stephen Curry's play at the Web.com event at TPC Stonebrae. This course is no joke, and Curry went around in a very respectable 74-74, despite all the attention.

But then we had the unthinkable this week. A boxer named Julio "The Machine" Bell playing on a sponsor's exemption Columbia with just five years of golf experience under his belt. He shot 93-105, carding just four pars in two days and reportedly not turning in his card the second day. Because the event was just before the "reshuffle" which determines who gets priority going forward, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Now, on one side of it you've got to look at what these exemptions are. Sponsor's exemptions. As in, the sponsor putting up the money can do whatever they want with them. In the San Francisco Bay Area, after winning the NBA Championship with the Warriors, would anyone have cared if Curry had fired a couple of 82s? I doubt it. But the point is, with his game, that was about the worst he was going to do.

I'm not so sure about Tony Romo, who will tee it up in a full PGA Tour event at the Puntacana Resort in the Dominican Republic Mar 22-25. (Well, March 22-23 anyway.) Although I don't see him putting together the kind of rounds that will even scare a chance to play on the weekend, he's going to bring a lot of attention to the tournament and could play as well as Curry did last year on the Web.com Tour.

Heck, now that "The Machine" has set the high mark with a 198 total for 36-holes, anything the scratch golfer athletes fire is going to look good in comparison.

Next up is Jake Owen, the Grammy Award winning country artist who will play the Web.com Tour's Nashville Golf Open in late May. Like Curry, Owen is a near scratch golfer who is at no risk of posting a couple of 95s. (Although his bladed bunker shot on No. 17 Saturday at Pebble Beach wasn't very Tour-like.)

Here's a guy from Nashville, who has won awards not just for his music but for his fundraising as well, getting a sponsor's exemption. How could you argue that it's not good for the tournament?Owen is certainly excited about it.

"It’s so cool to have been awarded a sponsor exemption,” he said. “I am truly honored to have this opportunity to play golf with guys whose work ethic I admire so much, like my buddy Brandt Snedeker. I know how hard everyone works to get to play in these PGA TOUR tournaments. I’m really grateful, and I can’t wait for this week in May 2018 to get here.”

What do you think? Are you a purist who thinks the exemptions should only be handed out to career golfers or top amateurs, or do you think the tournament should do with these exemptions whatever makes sense?

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