Q&A: Bill Calfee on changes to Finals format, Dye's Valley, season start
February 12, 2014
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
- Bill Calfee says they'll give the Finals format a couple years before making changes. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Bill Calfee, Web.com Tour president, spoke by phone last week with Web.com Tour Insider John Schwarb about the upcoming season, the second year of the Web.com Tour Finals and keeping tabs on recent graduates.
Q: Is this schedule -- with seven countries and 25 events, plus the same four Finals events returning – as good as any you’ve had on this Tour?
A: It’s pretty diverse. We’re excited to get back into Canada, that’s going to be a good event. A new event in Cleveland at a Tillinghast course (Lakewood CC) and another new one in Portland, that’s going to be a great way to finish the regular season, at Pumpkin Ridge. We think we’re in a good place.
Q: When did Nova Scotia come on your radar? That’s a pretty unique new spot.
A: Probably six or eight months ago, the early summer of last year, we started to get some calls. We got serious about the conversation at the end of the summer, then it took a few months to get all the pieces put together. People up there are pretty passionate about their golf, so we’re excited to be there. It’s a little difficult travel-wise because they came on so late, but next year I think we’ll able to do a better job of tying it in as a geographic fit.
Q: You have the same four events in the Finals again. Those events and sponsors must be thrilled to have the added value.
A: Those are a big hit, we absolutely hit a home run. A great way to finish the year -- exciting, dramatic, good sponsors, good venues, good markets. We looked at the metrics to determine the success – charity, community impact, ratings. Our TV ratings were way up, PGATOUR.COM was way up. We liked our results.
Q: Dye’s Valley will be renovated in time for the Tour Championship, how different will it look when it’s done?
A: I don’t think it will look a lot different, we’re not really doing design changes. It’s mostly reconstruction, rebuilding, coring out the greens, putting in the right drainage. It’s a rebuild, not a redesign. We’ll tweak a couple greens, move them to give them better growing conditions, more sun. The course will be closed and then reopen for the tournament.
Q: The fact that you’re not making any changes probably answers this question in itself, but how pleased are you with the Finals format?
A: We’re very pleased. The reaction of the media, the reaction of the players was very, very positive, the reaction of the our sponsors was very positive. Players think it was by far the best to way to determine how you get a PGA TOUR card.
There were a few questions, like the guy who plays well during the regular season and has his card assured but he doesn’t have his positioning if he plays poorly in the four Finals events, and he drops down. We had a couple guys that did that, so that’s a concern, but I think the bigger concern was the access that whole group had into the (PGA TOUR) fall events. This was the first year we had the first PGA TOUR schedule starting in the fall, so we had more PGA TOUR players playing. It affected some of the guys down the list of the 50 that got their cards through the Web.com Tour.
We made some changes for this year to those events. Frys.com has agreed to add 12 players to their field, McGladrey is looking at that. If we can get all (50) players into three or four of the fall events, that will take care of some of the other issues.
Q: You mentioned a player who has a strong regular season and then maybe drops a couple of spots because of a poor month in the finals, is there anything you can do about that or is that just how the cookie crumbles?
A: It took us two years, maybe two and a half years, since we started seriously talking about this concept and restructuring of the tour and the qualifying system. We looked at, gosh, I don’t know how many models – seeding models, number of cards, how you melded the PGA TOUR players in with the Web.com Tour players, how far down the money list, all those things. At the end of the day, obviously, the system we have is the one we came up with, and I think it’s a good one. I think we should give it another year or two before looking at any changes, but I think right now we’re comfortable with the results. I think we should leave it alone for a while and see how it plays out.
Q: There are so many paths into the Tour now, from Canada to Latinoamerica to, soon, the new PGA Tour China. Do you have a sense of which path may prove to have the most successful players?
A: I don’t really have any sense of what path from those tours will have the most success, but that’s one of the great things about this Tour, that we have an open system where if you play well, you get access. We still have 12 open qualifying spots just about every week, which is another way for players that don’t have any access on any of the tours can play their way into this Tour. It will be interesting to see and it will take several years to see how (the feeder paths) are working.
Q: When you follow PGA TOUR events, do you immediately check on the most recent graduates and see how they’re doing?
A: Absolutely (laughs). I feel like they’re my children, almost. Every Monday I get the results of PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and the other tours, I like to write notes and send them out to our graduates.
Q: You played on the PGA TOUR with some success, would you have been better with a breeding ground like the Web.com Tour back in your day?
A: I think so. I went to five q-schools before I got on TOUR, on the fifth one I made it. I played really well on mini-tours for three or four years and didn’t quite get through q-school. I think it’s a much better system (now), looking back on my career I don’t know if it would have changed anything.
One of the criticisms of the (current) system was that a guy couldn’t go right to the PGA TOUR through the q-school, I look at that and I think because of the success our players have had, I think a year-long competition is much better determinant of who should be there. Guys can catch lightning in a bottle, get on the PGA TOUR too soon, and it ruins their careers. Coming through this system is a good thing competitively, it teaches you how to deal with travel, fans, the media, so when you get to the PGA TOUR you’ve got the game but you’ve got some of those other tools to help you.