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Golf Channel's GOLF Am Tour to shut down permanently
13 May 2020
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

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Bay Area Golf Am Tour director Danny Cacho in 2013 <br>Napa Valley Register photo
Bay Area Golf Am Tour director Danny Cacho in 2013
Napa Valley Register photo

This one's a shocker. The largest and most successful national golf tour for amateurs has been shutdown permanently.

The Golf Am Tour had cautiously suspended the season on April 22 (including both national championships) via an email to players. It is unlikely that anyone was surprised, but I'm sure that many were disappointed.

But the reaction to a permanent cancellation will, no doubt, be much stronger. I, for one don't get surprised by much any more, but this one has me scratching my head. In a May 13 email to players and corresponding website post, Golf Am Tour said:

As you are aware, the GOLF Am Tour made the difficult decision to cancel all local and regional major events (including the 2020 National and Senior National Championships) due to complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we’ve now made the decision to permanently shut down the GOLF Am Tour effective immediately.

When you consider the financial impact that not having televised golf has had on the parent company, the decision to shut down the Am Tour for the season makes sense. In the framework of social distance golf as opposed to social gather golf, the safety of players and staff poses a potential liability to a large company. Of course, Golf Channel is concerned with safety, not just liability. To their credit they are providing players a pro-rata credit of their 2020 membership fee, refunds for any tournament entry fees paid, and a free one year subscription to their Golf Pass program.

From the purely financial side, player participation -- especially to their often sold-out "super-regional" and national events -- would definitely be affected by the coronavirus. Beyond that there's the issue of sponsorship. Golf and travel companies that make up the bulk of Golf Am Tour's sponsors have had to scrutinize (or freeze altogether) their budgets this year, even more than the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Which, coincidentally, is when Golf Channel acquired the American Amateur Golf Tour and changed the name to the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, and more recently the Golf Am Tour. To understand the permanent cancellation as opposed to the rest of 2020 requires a look at how the tour is structured.

Golf Channel's name and advertising power did a lot to build the tour since that acquisition, and it's hard to believe that something so strong would not be worth saving. But Golf Channel didn't have complete control over the day-to-day operation of these events. The hundreds of one-day Am Tour tournaments -- in geographical territories across the U.S. -- were run by franchise owners. Trying to implement a COVID-19 safety plan across company owned territories would be hard enough. Doing so with franchise owners would be akin to the federal government telling states what to do. It's messy.

Over the years, I have sent hundreds of players to the GCAmTour.com when they were looking for a national golf tour to travel and play events in. State and regional golf associations make it difficult to cross borders and play events due to membership requirements. The Golf Am Tour solved that problem with one uniform membership. I was a fan.

Extending a business trip to a city like Atlanta for an extra day or two to play a competitive event -- using your same membership and accruing valuable player-of-the-year points, made sense. It's no surprise that former professional athletes like MLB pitcher Mark Mulder loved getting the competitive juices flowing on the Golf Am Tour.

One of the reasons that AmateurGolf.com didn't become a "tour" after we started running tournaments shortly after stating up in 2000 was exactly this risk factor. Major economic, health, and even wartime shocks are part of life. And the infrastructure you need to have in place to run a national tour is tough to disassemble.

But I still have to ask myself, why throw away ten-plus years of hard work by cancelling the Golf Am Tour permanently? What happens to players, franchise owners, and employees? Surely this is a business worth saving.

My guess is that the strongest regional franchise owners will start running events on their own. Players will find competition elsewhere; perhaps golf professionals should take advantage of the opportunity by offering one or two day competitive events or boosting the marketing of city championships.

AmateurGolf.com will continue to list each and every one of them, and if you need help getting the word out - just use our contact button to tell us about your event and we'll take it from there.

And if you are looking for one day competitive events, check your state and local golf association (this is an excuse to join if you haven't already -- some run full schedules of "events for everybody") or visit our partner the U.S. Golf Challenge. The U.S. Golf Challenge offers two-person best ball events that provide the chance to qualify for a national championship, and potentially represent USA in a Ryder Cup-style match vs. Ireland. It doesn't get much better than that!

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