Golf

PGA Tour commissioner talks DFW tournaments, golf’s future, gambling and more

PGA Tour commissioner: DFW is vibrant, important market for golf

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke at the AT&T Byron Nelson kickoff luncheon on Thursday, and had good things to say about both golf events in North Texas. He sees the market as essential for the game for years to come.
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PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke at the AT&T Byron Nelson kickoff luncheon on Thursday, and had good things to say about both golf events in North Texas. He sees the market as essential for the game for years to come.

This is golf month in North Texas.

The AT&T Byron Nelson just completed its second year at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas with Sung Kang winning his first PGA Tour title, and Colonial’s newly named event, the Charles Schwab Challenge, gets underway following this week’s PGA Championship.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan visited the North Texas area earlier this year for the Nelson’s kickoff luncheon, and touched on a number of golf-related topics.

The Star-Telegram was on hand for Monahan’s “state of the sport” Q&A session. Here’s what the commissioner in his third full year had to say --

On DFW being a key market for the PGA Tour: “This is such a great, vibrant important market for the game and for the country with a rich history. To know that we have two great golf courses, two phenomenal brands in AT&T and Charles Schwab that are supporting these championships with a rich history of champions, is [big]. It’s also in a timeframe that’s so important within our overall schedule, particularly as we’ve made changes. We feel really good about where we are here and excited to be here for a long time to come.”

On DFW possibly hosting three tournaments in 2027 with the Nelson, Colonial and 2027 PGA Championship: “You look at the growth rates and the number of people that are going to be in this marketplace, I think this community can more than handle three tournaments in a given year. Would it be unprecedented? I would imagine it is. But I just think it’s more eyeballs on our sport in one of the most important markets in the world, and a market that really supports our game as well as any other.”

On golf’s growth, or lack thereof, based on participation numbers: “The way that people engage with the game has changed, so that report that comes out, those numbers, that’s just one look. Just think about the last 10 years, Topgolf draws 10-12 million people and more than 50 percent have not been on golf course. You’ve got gaming, the World Golf Tour, you’ve got several million people on that. You’ve got simulators. You’ve got instruction. You’ve got people that are playing less than 18 holes. You’ve got the way people consume the PGA Tour and the best golf in the world, that’s growing. You’ve got a group of athletes who are so relatable and inspiring. I think you have to look at the total picture. The total picture is really positive. I think it’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re going. I really love the position we’re in as a sport, to grow our sport at this point in time.”

On new gambling laws boosting the sport’s popularity: “A lot of people, a lot of experts have focused on the commercial and financial impact. To me, that’s irrelevant. The opportunity is to engage more people and use this as an opportunity to further diversify and grow our fan base, and opportunities for engagement that have not existed in the past. That’s what excites us most. If you think about our sport, just think the Dallas Mavericks or Dallas Stars or Dallas Cowboys, there’s one ball. There’s only so much you can do with the data that comes off one ball, or one puck. At times we have 78 golf balls in the air. I think there’s a lot our sport can do. It’s about gaming and how you can use this opportunity.

“It’s as if nobody played a 25 cent Nassau when they were 12 years old. They forget that [gambling] is part of the fabric of our game.”

On his thoughts on players such as Rory McIlroy complaining about rowdy fans: “I think safety and allowing our players to compete in a great atmosphere is always going to be something that we’re focused on. Listen, when you play 140 tournaments around the world and you’ve got millions of people that come to them, you’re going to have a few situations that you need to correct. If you look at what happens week in and week out, and the respect that fans have for our players, particularly Thursday through Sunday while we’re in competition, I really like the position we’re in. We’ll work with all of our tournaments to make certain that we’ve got the right systems in place and that we’re cognizant of the fact that there’s a lot at stake for these guys when they’re playing. There’s always things that you want to get better at and you don’t want to have any incidents or any problems. The reality is, when you get to a certain scale like we’re at, when that happens, you’ve got to learn from it and you’ve got to grow from it. That’s what we continuously do.”

On if top players such as McIlroy get more “hecklers:” “Not necessarily. I don’t think there’s a frequency to it. It’s easy to say who it happens to and why it happens. It’s unique to that point in time when it happens. Again, I want to stress -- I’m very comfortable with where we are.”

On longtime Fort Worth resident and renowned golf writer Dan Jenkins passing: “I met him, but I didn’t really get to know him. … But a legend. We’re here talking about Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer and Jack [Nicklaus] and Gary [Player], but Dan Jenkins is a game-changer. He literally changed an industry and made a huge impact on our sport.”

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