When we last heard from the Premier Golf League (PGL), the upstart organization’s plans included a global tour starting in 2022 with an eight-month duration and a total prize purse of $240 million with 48 top players competing. Only problem was, the PGA TOUR opposed it. Flatly and completely, in fact, noting that any pro joining the PGL would lose their PGA membership.
And for a while, we heard nothing. Until now. The PGL has reared its head again, this time promising a 2023 start AND a tour for top juniors.
The juniors tour was announced in a tweet in late September. According to the section of the PGL’s website dedicated to this part of the events, the program would host 48 juniors per week (816 per season), aged 12 to 18 with an equal split of male and female players. There would be 12 teams of four, each representing a PGL team and wearing that team’s uniform. All players would be selected in consultation with the destination’s local golf association/federation, and all games would be held on either Monday or Tuesday of each tournament week.
Oh, and all games would be broadcast on PGL channels – something that could appeal to those who want college coaches to take a look at them.
The question, of course, is this: Assuming the PGL manages to get off the ground, what view would the PGA Tour take of golfers who had participated in it as juniors – as they moved into college and, potentially, became eligible for participation at the level of the PGA TOUR University? (For those who need a refresher course, the PGA Tour University is a program “that rewards elite collegiate play with varying levels of playing access to Tours operated under the PGA Tour umbrella, while upholding the principles and virtues of collegiate athletics.”)
So would playing in a PGL event as a junior render an athlete ineligible for the PGA TOUR University (or later, the PGA Tour itself?)
The PGA Tour noted that at this time, the PGL “is a proposed league and we have not seen much if any detail, so [would] prefer not to comment on a hypothetical.”
For now, the question in the golf community is whether any pros will jump ship from the PGA TOUR. The PGL made enormous headlines last spring by dangling contracts worth up to $100 million to take part, while the PGA dug in its heels, warning that participation meant an instant suspension and a lifetime ban.
And while the PGL’s website promises its 2023 kickoff, there’s plenty of room for doubt among athletes on the tour.
“I personally don’t think that it’ll happen,” one player told Golf Digest. “This is the tour’s stance, and I feel like major championships will feel the same way. I don’t think this thing is going to go ahead, to be honest.”
The business ramifications alone are daunting. After all, noted Golf Digest, while players who join the PGL may enjoy a lucrative initial payday, they would also risk losing long-term sponsorship funding from companies who do not want to be associated with a Saudi-financed venture. And if the league were to fold, it would likely leave its former players alienated from the PGA TOUR and possibly unable to gain readmittance.
But another consideration – and it’s by no means a small one – affects the events market. Will the PGL’s tournaments will find a home in the types of courses organizers are likely to seek out? Many high-profile golf destinations in the U.S. already host PGA TOUR events and have done so for years. The fact that the sports economy is just now rebounding from 2020 means cities might be reluctant to jeopardize their long-term relationship with the PGA – particularly when that risk is tied to an unproven tour that may or may not last.
In response to questions about destinations, the PGA TOUR told SDM, "At this time, we are not speaking publicly about hypotheticals."
SDM will continue to follow the PGA Tour/PGL issue.