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Jay Busbee

Maybe, just maybe, sponsorships are coming back

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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It's been a dark couple years on the PGA Tour, and not just because of a certain former No. 1's scandal. No, the economic crisis has hit the Tour hard, primarily because golf can be painted as the symbol of what's out of balance in the United States -- rich folk playing exclusive courses while poorer types cart their clubs around.

True or not -- and judging from the types who frequent my local muni, I say "not" -- golf has borne a stigma that has affected how much companies are willing to pay in sponsorships. Doesn't look good to the public if you're receiving government bailout money while sipping champagne in a greenside corporate tent, you know. As a result, many companies cut back on spending, both on tournaments and on sponsorships.

But there are signs that the clouds may be lifting. General Motors is reportedly in the final stages of an agreement to sponsor the WGC event at Doral, and potentially other tournaments. (Sports Business Journal, subscription required.) Unless you've been hiding in a St. Andrews bunker, you know that GM received (and repaid) $6.7 billion in TARP coin.

A title sponsorship at Doral would go for an estimated $10 million to $12 million, according to Sports Business Journal. SBJ notes that several other events are lacking a title sponsor: the Heritage in Hilton Head; the Bob Hope Classic in La Quinta, Calif.; the Reno-Tahoe Open; and the St. Jude Classic in Memphis. The Player's Championship is also seeking "proud partner" positions.

It's too early to make anything close to a definitive pronouncement, but if an automaker like GM is willing to spend money on golf, perhaps other, smaller -- and less governmentally compromised -- entities may be willing to do so also. Cross your fingers.

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