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TOPIC: Pros and Paid Appearance Fees thru the Decades

Pros and Paid Appearance Fees thru the Decades 6 years 1 week ago #688

  • Geoff Mangum
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SI, May 29, 2000
Pros With A Price

Tiger Woods broke new ground last week when he pocketed more than $1 million to play in Hamburg, Germany—the largest appearance fee ever paid a golfer. Here are some other highlights in the history of player inducements.

1900 Harry Vardon plays exhibitions in the U.S. for nine months to promote the Vardon Flyer, a gutta-percha ball. The Vardon Flyer is a flop because everyone wants the revolutionary Haskell ball with its core of wound rubber thread. Vardon's fee is based on ball sales, so his cautionary tale leads to the first rule of appearance fees: Get the cash up front.

1926 Walter Hagen takes on Bobby Jones in a 72-hole match over two days. Not only does Hagen win 12 and 11, but because Jones is an amateur, Hagen also gets the gate receipts.

1946 Sam Snead goes to South Africa to play Bobby Locke in a series of 16 matches for a guarantee of $10,000. Locke wins 12, and Snead encourages him to try the U.S. Tour. Locke wins seven times in the U.S. the next year, but never plays the Tour full time thereafter because sponsors refuse to pay him in advance.

1956 Snead goes to the Brazilian Open for $5,000, with the proviso that he will not be eligible for a cut of the purse. When he opens with a 71, promoters moan that no one will show up if Snead's not in contention. Snead says he might play better if he has a shot at some prize money. The promoters agree, and Snead reels off rounds of 64, 63 and 69 to win and clear a total of $7,000 in a year in which he earns $8,253 on Tour.

1976 Jack Nicklaus has a policy of not taking cash to play in any national championship, so for entering (and winning for the fifth time) the Australian Open, he's paid a hefty fee to remodel the Alister Mackenzie-designed Australian Golf Club in Kensington.

1977 Lee Trevino is paid handsomely to accept an invitation to play with golf nut King Hassan of Morocco. After three days of the royal treatment in Rabat, Trevino finally meets the king, and they play seven holes on his highness's private nine-hole course. Trevino makes five birdies, shares a glass of champagne with Hassan and heads home.

1978 For playing the New Zealand Airlines-Shell Open, Arnold Palmer asks that he and five friends get a 10-day vacation Down Under with fishing, ballooning and a trip to a health spa.

1996 Greg Norman receives $300,000—the same amount as the purse—to play the Ford South Australian Open and wins the $40,500 first-place check as well.

1998 Woods, David Duval, Mark O'Meara and Payne Stewart pass up the big bucks offered by the Standard Life Loch Lomond and instead prepare for the following week's British Open by spending quiet time as guests at Ireland's Waterville Golf Club, Ballybunion and the K Club, where between casual rounds they fish.
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