Tiger's scandal effect limited

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 AM ET

If you think people who make their living from golf are rubbing their hands and licking their chops over the return of Tiger Woods to the Masters in a couple of weeks, you’re partially correct.

Like everybody else, there’s a curiosity within the golf industry about Woods’ return from the sex scandal that changed his life forever. The Masters is the unofficial beginning of golf season, but the focus on the game will go up a notch or 20 with this event of epic proportions, according to those given to exaggeration.

From a profile standpoint, the game will take any extra headlines that Woods generates. Any publicity is good publicity, but the reality is that the Masters is already prime time. When it comes to increasing rounds, golf proprietors will take the spectacular weather that’s been blessing most of Canada over Tiger.

“The courses are probably in better condition this year. They might be opening a little early, the weather seems to be on our side,” said Kevin Thistle, general manager at Coppinwood in Uxbridge. “Those are things that all add up.”

Nigel Hollidge, vice-president of business development at Markham’s Angus Glen, agrees.

“From a rounds-played standpoint, I think everybody in the Southern Ontario region is just looking for some good weather,” Hollidge said.

“Honestly, I think in Canada, we had such a bad summer last year and the bonus in rounds will be directly related to weather and the Tiger effect may be more so in retail sales.”

Not the case

Somebody who specializes in that area doesn’t believe that is the case.

Stephen Bebis, president and chief executive officer of retail giant Golf Town, says he hasn’t seen any effect on sales since the Tiger scandal broke last November.

“I don’t think it has any impact on the golf industry. We have seen no impact. It’s good conversation. An avid golfer is not going to play more or less because Tiger cheats on his wife. It has very minimal impact, really none, on our business,” said Bebis, illustrating his point.

“We carry the Tiger Woods collection of apparel that has sold very well because it’s a beautiful line and it’s sold on its merits,” he said.

Hollidge believes the perfect scenario for Canada would be having Woods battling it out with Mike Weir on the final holes Sunday at Augusta, but even without that dream matchup, the return of Tiger is still an enhancement to the Masters.

“The timing is perfect from a Canadian golf standpoint. Most people will tell you in the Southern Ontario region that Masters weekend is the beginning of the golf season,” he said.

“If he comes across as somewhat apologetic, that he loves this game and he’s going to focus on the game and is rededicated and worked hard, I think people will once again realize he’s probably the greatest player that’s ever played.”

While that may not translate into many more rounds at Canadian golf courses, it will create and hold interest in the game, as opposed to just causing a spike during the Masters.

“We’ll all see him on TV. We’ll all, hopefully, see him play pretty good. We’ll say: ‘Okay, the old Tiger’s back and let’s get on with life,’” said Thistle, adding that the media and the fans in the gallery at Augusta will be more concerned with his game than his personal life.

“I just think it’s good to have the focus on golf. I can’t say that Tiger’s return in April will add more rounds. I think it goes to the Masters — the core golfers really get excited about golf,” Thistle said and Bebis agrees.

“To have the best golfer playing is always good for golf,” Bebis said.

hutchgolf@netzero.com


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