Finchem: An even keel in an economic storm
NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA. - PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is, by training, an economist and a lawyer and, by profession, a politician - in the Jimmy Carter White House - and an administrator. Needless to say, he has had a lot of practice employing phrases like "vagaries of the marketplace." This man does not speak in bumper-sticker shorthand and rarely hands out a catchy phrase on which you can hang your journalistic hat. Finding a catchy quote from Finchem is like stumbling upon a Democrat in pro golf - rare indeed.
The reason Finchem has not only survived but thrived for 16 years as commissioner is not because of his oratorical eloquence but because he took over a very good product groomed for him by Deane Beman and made it better. Under Finchem, purses have skyrocketed, TV exposure has expanded enormously and the game has become truly one without borders, both in its players and its venues. Oh, and his constituency -- the players -- have become very wealthy.
There is, in the way Finchem approaches matters, a calm and a refusal to panic that suggests he was not only the perfect man to lead the tour in good times but is also even better to serve it in the bad. Speaking Wednesday at the AT&T National at Aronimink GC near Philadelphia, Finchem acknowledged that "the economy continues to lag" and that some events are without sponsors, but at the same time calmly added: "We don't anticipate any need for contraction" in the 2011 schedule.
That's a pretty bold statement from a guy facing potential holes next year at the Doral-WGC event, Memphis, Hilton Head, Reno-Tahoe and the Bob Hope - at the very least. But they are also the words of a man who understands well the value of his product. "We are basically on track with where we are in most years, good or bad economy, in terms of the amount of work we have to do either to renew sponsors or bring in new sponsors," Finchem said. "The market is generally soft, but our product continues to perform well."
And they are also the words of a man who also understands his product is going to have to make some modifications in the way it operates. One of those modifications is a plan to designate some tournaments deemed to be weaker that will form a pool from which players will have to select one to add to their schedule. Finchem said such a proposal would have to be presented to the PGA Tour Board by September in order for approval - or rejection - to occur in time for the 2011 season.
"Tournament regulations need to be approved twice by the Board," Finchem explained. "It's a fail-safe mechanism that keeps us from doing damage to ourselves. And, in this case, you would want the fourth quarter to educate the players and tournaments how it would work."
And that is exactly an example of how Finchem works: Far more substance than sizzle. And isn't that refreshing? Isn't that the way it should be?
-- Ron Sirak