MORE INTERVIEWS: Regions Tradition transcript archive
MODERATOR: Our first major championship of the Champions Tour season here at Shoal Creek, maybe just some opening comments and we'll get some questions.
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, I'll just throw out a couple things and then I would be happy to take your questions.
We're excited about this week. I think the reason for the excitement is we've got a lot of good things coming together to make this what we think will be a special tournament, the history of the tradition of the tournament and that coming here as a major championship of the Champions Tour, the history of Champions Tour golf in Birmingham starting with the Bruno's and transitioning to the Regions Charity Classic the last few years, the quality of the golf course, which is by all estimates a significant, supreme test, and also the golf course is famous around the world. Everybody knows about Shoal Creek. The fact that we've got, you know, just I gather everybody here who's eligible with a couple -- one injury and one personal situation. And then the community, the community has been very supportive. I spoke to, I guess it was, six other people at the Kiwanis/Rotary Club joint luncheon day. The community has been quite supportive preparing for it, supporting the tournament, so we're excited.
We come here this week in the aftermath of the tornadoes last week, and at the luncheon I certainly applauded the Regions action of committing a million dollars to the rebuilding effort. I announced at the luncheon the Champions Tour would add $100,000 to that effort.
Also, a number of our players have called Dicky Pride over in Tuscaloosa about how they could help out as things go forward with fundraising efforts. I know there was an auction here last night, raised $50,000. This is aside from the other dollars that will be raised for charity, which I gather is going to approach 500,000 for the week. And then at point of sale, whether it's merchandise out here or admissions or whatever, people are being asked to make a commitment, too. So we're trying to do what we can, and on behalf of the Champions Tour players, our hearts go out to the people who were affected with loss of life, loss of property here in Alabama.
And then third, I just say we've got great weather and great crowds and it should be a good week, and I'll be happy to try to answer your questions about this week or other things related to the Champions Tour or the PGA TOUR.
Q. In addition to all the golf-specific things that make Shoal Creek a great place to bring an event, it has been 21 years since it's been on the national stage and I was wondering, does the Champions Tour coming here create any sort of final, I don't know, stamp of approval that kind of -- that maybe puts what happened in 1990 to rest??
TIM FINCHEM: Well, I don't know how to answer that question. We certainly have no hesitation of playing here and haven't had for a number of years. We actually, the last five or 10 years, we've had a couple of, I would call them, robust conversations with the club here about possibly playing. You know, for whatever reason, those conversations didn't materialize, but they could have. I mean, we had no reservation about playing.
So, you know, I think that's a question that others really have to answer based on their take of, you know, what 1990 was all about and where we are today. All I can say is as for today and this decision, we're extremely comfortable on all fronts.
Q. Tim --
TIM FINCHEM: And we're delighted, by the way, that the members of not just the community but the members themselves have embraced. Anytime you have a club that you're going to subject to some of the difficulties that arise out of staging a tournament at this level, it's disrupting, so we appreciate that very much.
Q. Tim, just one more followup on that subject in a way. You were obviously a key PGA staff member in 1990 when all this developed. Certainly this wasn't the only club that had that situation; a couple clubs on the TOUR dropped off as tournament sites.
Can you just reflect on that time and how golf or the TOUR has evolved since then? In terms of inclusion?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, you know, it was -- it was disruptive at that time and we did lose some places we had been playing, and that transition was made -- I think that, you know, as the years have gone by, the bigger challenge has been to focus on how, you know, how you can go about broadening the game and reaching people with the game in such a way that eventually the game, the makeup of the game from a participation standpoint, looks like the rest of society and America.
I think there's been a lot of effort in that regard. I know that The First Tee program's been hugely successful and we will have more to say about that this summer in terms of the next 10 years after these first 14 years with nearly 5 million kids, you know, touched by the program.
But it's a generational long-term work in progress. It takes a lot of resources. I'm often jealous of basketball because we could put a hoop right here and shoot some hoops. Golf's a little different situation.
But we've made progress, we really are making progress. I think with golf entering the Olympics now in '16, with golf growing like it is in Asia and South America, Eastern Europe, the game itself, you know, is so impactful on people that play it, so stimulating, so challenging, so frustrating, so educational, all those things at once. It's just a question of reaching people with it.
It's happening globally. We've just got to make sure here in the United States that it happens here. We're what's called a golf mature country, but that's not really accurate until -- until we've done everything we can to make the game accessible to people that historically haven't had access. It's a lot of work, lot of effort. Just have to stay focused, prioritize it and make sure you're doing all you can, and we'll have more to say about that in July of this year. Thank you for the question.
Q. Tim, from your perspective about the Champions Tour, the schedule largely remains stable this year and has the last couple years in the wake of tough times that affected other tours. What's your take on how this Tour's doing right now??
TIM FINCHEM: I think it's doing well. You know, I think this Tour is sewn in in a way the last five or six years that fits it. In other words, I think it's important for the viability of this Tour that the field makeup be pretty consistent week in and week out, and that that field makeup be made up -- as much as there are interesting stories about a player that really doesn't get competitive until he's 50, I think what works for the viability of the Tour is a very high percentage of the field are players who were successful on the PGA TOUR, and those two things are what we have today. I think fans like it that way. It has some continuity during the course of the year. I think the Schwab Cup competition's helped in that regard in terms of viable season-long competition. And the other thing I'd say is this group of players that are playing out here right now, in my view, is the best overall group of players we've had in the 20-some years I've been in this business, because it's just a very positive attitude. They love being out here playing, they love competing, they really contribute to what's important to the viability of the Tour, they support sponsor activities, they don't -- it's not a job, they really enjoy doing that stuff. This is a great group of people. These guys are making this a special thing, and as long as they do that, I think we'll be just fine.