What they said: Commissioner Finchemtext sizeMay 09, 2012
PGA TOUR staff
MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS Championship transcript archive
LAURA HILL: At this time I'd like to turn it over to the Commissioner for a few opening remarks.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Laura. Thank you all for being here this week. We are already finding it to be a pretty exciting week. Everything is in good order, and what I thought I would do is just make a brief few comments about the PGA TOUR in general, talk for just a moment about what's happened this first part of the year that's leading into THE PLAYERS, and then focus on THE PLAYERS for a few minutes and then take questions, and then we have a special announcement after that.
Just generally, I think we are very pleased with our television position coming out of our discussions last year. Our sponsorship continues to perform well, notwithstanding continuing challenges in the economy. The successes that we have had last year seem to have rolled into this year with additional sponsorships added and extensions, as well.
On the charity side of the equation, we are now in the last couple years of driving to the $2billion level of charitable giving by our tournaments, and of course with the addition of Together, Anything is Possible, we are measuring and reporting on what players do in the charity area, themselves.
As part of the charity effort, we have a significant campaign underway this year with regard to The First Tee. And I think most of you are aware that Joe Barrow is with us today and will talk a little later about a strategic plan that would allow The First Tee to reach ten million unique new kids over the next six or seven years. That program has reached around six million kids in the first 14 years, and to do that, we have a campaign underway to generate $100million to support and make sure that happens.
By way of a progress report, I'll say that as of this morning, we are at a point where we are at 72.8 million of that 100 million, and our goal is to reach the $100million mark by Monday, October 8, which will be the day we have a culmination of the campaign at Pebble Beach in the form of a special Pro?Am.
A lot of our television partners are involved in communicating what this campaign is all about. If we are successful, I think it will greatly elevate and increase the trajectory of growth for The First Tee over the next couple of decades, which will have a tremendous impact on the game of golf. So we are excited about that.
We are almost done with the changes for next year regarding the Nationwide Tour and the qualification system changes that we have talked about over the past year, including as a result of that, a restructure of our season where we would start the season in October and end it in September the following year with the TOUR Championship and the completion of the FedExCup Playoffs.
That's some fundamental change coming up for us next year. We are preparing for it but we have some details to both of those pieces that will be ironed out by the time of the conclusion of our board meetings in June in Washington, D.C., and we will have more to share with you after those meetings.
I think as we look at those changes, we are focused on a better product, something that the fans can relate to more effectively because we will culminate our season and everything will be on the line, including the FedExCup Champion, the Arnold Palmer Award winner. We'll immediately go to the balloting for Player of the Year so that it tightens up and puts our season into a more seamless progression from the start to the finish, and the fans can relate to what a season is all about.
Also, we are making progress in the implementation under our new television agreements with more digital activity. Starting in 2013 when all of our programming will be?? or virtually all of our programming will be simulcast, and as an adjunct to that, we will have new programs for our tournaments next year involved being able to reach our fans with smartphone access on site that in many cases will include video transmission and a wide range of interface with our fans, either at home watching, at home not watching, or at tournament sites.
That is, as I've said earlier in the year, a No. 1 priority for us over the next two years so that we can come out in 2013 we hope in a position where we can rival any other sport in terms of how we interface with our fans from a digital standpoint.
So as we came into this year, we came off of a very good, solid, 2011 when we were talking about the competition. We had 18 playoffs last year, an all?time record. That energy and the fan focus on those playoffs that generated an increase in our ratings last year seemed to flow into this year.
Just to give you one metric, over the last 13 weeks, if you measure over Sunday last year compared to this year, those Sundays on average are up over 30percent in television audience to a year ago. And we attribute that to the finishes that we've had this year, terrific finishes, come?from?behind wins, playoffs. Also, continued increase in the interest of the fans and the younger players, who the more they play well, the more interest there is, because the fans are coming to our telecasts. They are spending on average more minutes on the telecast to learn about these young players.
In addition, I think with Tiger not being quite as dominant as he was five or six years ago, it's allowing more focus on the other players, and the combination of that, along with the continued good play of a lot of veterans, along with Tiger playing at a level that's pretty good and not quite at the level it was on a consistency basis, but certainly at the level where he's winning or he's in the hunt and driving television audience; all of those things combine for what might be the best combination of things to drive our television audience.
And so that brings us into this week, we think, with a lot of momentum and a lot of interest. When we think of THE PLAYERS historically, we think of really three things: We think of the quality of the field we have, the golf course we play on and the champions who have won here.
And with regard to the quality of the field, we are delighted again with the field this year. Especially from an international focus, I think we have 52 players not from the United States, from 19 different countries, tremendous international flair. I think we have had six different countries represented in the winner's circle over the last six years; and having a couple of international players back who did not play last year is a positive, as well.
So we are pleased about the field. From a golf course standpoint, I don't know how it could be any better. As I mentioned earlier today, the weather pattern this spring allowed our field staff some more flexibility in terms of preparing during the three?week preparation period we provide them. We were able to do more verticutting and able to take a bit more grain out of the greens. We should be able to control the golf course this week and get it and keep it just about where we want it. The feedback from the players has been very positive in that regard.
We are looking forward to a great field on a great golf course.
As far as the champions go, adding K.J. Choi last year I think meant a lot. I think K.J. Choi is not just a terrific player but one of the terrific gentlemen who have played the game. He has a great sense of pride about playing the game. K.J. lived in this community as he was trying to come up, and as he said at a reception last night as he was hitting balls on the range in '99 and 2000, looking at these flags here, he started to dream about a day that maybe he could be responsible for the Korean flag appearing at the top of that mast. And accomplishing it last year for him was a dream come true.
And I think adding K.J. to that list is a very special addition to what is already a great list of champions.
In addition to the competition, the golf course, what's going to happen from the standpoint of conducting a terrific golf tournament, we try to use THE PLAYERS to communicate some of the other things that are important about what the PGA TOUR stands for, and that includes economic impact, which is projected to be in this community $150million.
It means charity; in the last 30 years, the PLAYERS has generated about $46, $47 million for local charities. In the next ten years, I think the PLAYERS will generate 65 to $70million, and a lot of that, as we said last year, is now focused specifically on young people in Northeast Florida, either in wellness programs, character development programs or education; education being the leader, actually.
We had a terrific conference earlier in the week with Tom Friedman here, with the mayor here and with other leaders in the community to talk about how to take advantage of that over these next ten years and make an impact here.
And then third, the opportunity to recognize the military. Jacksonville is a military town. Northeast Florida is a military region. It's a great place to do that, and we do that a lot around the TOUR, and we are looking forward to our ceremonies this afternoon that will try to focus on our National Guard and the volunteer aspects of our military force as we continue to recognize our men and women in uniform.
In addition to those things, we had a great Hall of Fame ceremony on Monday night. I don't know if you can come up with a better group of inductees, if you were trying to put on an interesting and captivating show; to have, as somebody mentioned, earlier today, a couple of guys in their 80s and a guy that's 40 years old and people in between put on really an eloquent display of what golf is all about to them and what golf is all about for us, and it was I think a great evening and we all enjoyed it thoroughly.
And that's where we are. You know, we have a good weather pattern for the weekend. We should be able to conduct a great tournament, tell some good stories, and we'll take a few minutes, Laura, and answer a few questions before we bring up our special guests.
Q. Any plans on revisiting the playoff format for this tournament, and specifically, 16, 17, 18 as a three?hole playoff?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think that we are always revisiting that. It's a matter of regular discussion and we continue to look at it. I think we determined right now that we would go ahead through this year with our current television agreements.
There are a lot of obstacles to moving that direction. There are pluses and minuses, but it will probably be something we spend a little bit more time on as we get into the middle part of this year.
But last year we talked about it some, and we'll be talking about it again this year. It's something that's interesting to us, but we have not yet determined it's something that we should necessarily do. If you ask ten people, probably five would say, if you're going to have a playoff, sudden death on the 17th hole is tough to beat. Others would argue that you keep the suspense going in an aggregate, multi?hole situation.
Then you take either one of those courses and start to apply it to air times and darkness and whatever; it's not a situation where there's a right or wrong answer, so we'll continue to think about it.
Q. You referenced earlier the new schedule, the Nationwide Tour next year. Can you talk about the complications or any of the hang? ups associated with that? Obviously there was a lot of things up in the air when it was announced at Bay Hill.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, there's really only two things, if you look at the combination of the restructure of the qualifying and restarting the season; and so it's a cross?calendar year season.
There's really only two things that are hanging out there. One is, now that all tournaments will be part of the FedExCup, how many points do they receive relative to other tournaments.
And the second is, in the qualification, we know that the top 75 off the Nationwide are going to go into those three final events, and we know when they go there, they are going to be joined by the 126 to 200 off the PGA TOUR. That's going to happen. And then there's going to be three finals, and then there's going to be 50 cards awarded.
The question is, when those two groups come together, do you weight them in some fashion; do you seed them in some fashion? And the details of that are what's left to be ironed out by the June meeting. But that's pretty much it.
The rest of it?? I could go on with the rest of it, but the rest of it is determined and has been approved. It's those two things that are hanging out there.
Q. Do you have a preference for how you'd like to see that go with the seeding? Obviously that's a hard one to work through.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It's hard because at the end of wherever you come out, you have made somewhat of an arbitrary decision. It's not something that says, okay, because this is this, you should do this. That's not the way it works.
You've got to make a call. And so some of it is subjective. And the players, I think it's fair to say, that one of the reasons we have taken as long as we have with this is because it does?? a young guy grows up, wants to play the PGA TOUR his whole life. Well, this system is going to be determining who plays.
So it's very, very important. It's actually more important than who gets in tournaments during the year, because there's a lot of tournaments, I mean on an eligibility standpoint. So we have been very careful. I think it's fair to say that as players have looked at this, and as we have looked at this, some of our attitudes have changed as we have sort of lived with it and looked at it and how does it feel; and some of it is subjective. I think it's got to end up at the end of the day being a system that the players look at, that the fans look at and say, this is a good way to determine who should be playing on the PGA TOUR. This makes sense to me and I get it.
That's not the only factor. There are other factors, such as how important is the regular season, just like the Playoffs and the FedExCup. Should the person be the same, and the impact of cuts and stuff. There are pieces to it, but that's the fundamental.
I'm pretty confident that we are going to come out with a system that's going to work out very well.
Q. With Augusta National's all?male membership again an issue at this year's Masters, how does the PGA TOUR view its discriminatory policy?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think the position of the PGA TOUR hasn't changed. We have a policy that says that when we go out and do a co?sanctioned event, we are going to play it at a club that is as open to women members, open to minority members, etc., and we follow that policy carefully.
In the case of the Masters, we concluded?? we have concluded a number of times now, and we have certainly not moved off of this; that we are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our tour. It's too important. And so at the end of the day, the membership of that club have to determine their membership. They are not doing anything illegal.
But we just elect to continue to recognize them as an official money event on the PGA TOUR because we think it's that important to golf, so we don't get to determining whether their policies are right or wrong, because we don't have to, because we made the conclusion that regardless of those policies, we are going to continue to play and recognize them as part of the PGA TOUR.
I know some people don't like that position, and I appreciate that and I understand their reasoning, but that's the decision we've made.
Q. Top players like Luke Donald have said that they believe slow play is killing their sport, our sport. Do you feel an urgency at all to address slow play, and do you feel the TOUR has an obligation to set an example for the game when it comes to pace of play??
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, as long as I've been in the game, this has been a constant discussion. There really isn't any difference.
A lot of people look at the deliberate nature of the way we play the game at the TOUR level and relate that to when somebody says it's impacting the game negatively, they are referring to the amateur or average player making a determination whether they want to play golf if it takes me X long to play. I personally am very sensitive to that because I personally play the game and I personally don't like to take a long time to play it, and if it took me a long time to play it all the time, I probably wouldn't play it very much.
I like to play a two?ball game to be honest with you and take 2 1/2 hours to play. If I can go off first, better.
The question really is, whether we put 146 or 156 players on a golf course playing for $7 million, and we're teeing them off every eight minutes all day long, and we are clearing the decks at the end of the day at dark and often pushing our field sizes so much that we have a wait at the turn, does that relate to the average game? And I don't think it is.
I don't have a problem with playing at a club where they have a clock on every hole, and you're supposed to be done by this minute, because if you're not done by this minute, it means you're going to take over four hours to play. I think that's great.
When we put 156 people on the golf course, they are not going to play in four hours, typically.
Now, when we cut, on the weekend, and we go to, let's say we have got 70 and ties and we are at 74, then we are playing, what, if we play in twos, we are probably playing in 3:45.
These are the same guys that played on Thursday and Friday. These are the same guys that are showing the same deliberation. But when you put that many people on a golf course, that's just not going to happen.
On a Pro?Am day when you play four amateurs and a professional and now you're five, you're playing a good Pro?Am at 5 1/2. We elect to continue to do that because we want that many people playing in the Pro?Am, and it's kind of a different experience, anyway.
We are all ears to suggestions to help make the game of golf either faster, or funner; that's the way I refer to it. Can we make it faster; can we make it funner?
And Jack Nicklaus addressed this at Augusta. He said we architects?? all of us in golf are to blame. Architects are at the top of the list; we made the golf courses too difficult. If it ain't much fun and it's slow to play, that's not what we're looking for.
Anything we can do from?? we reach all of the fans. Anything we can do from a communications standpoint to encourage people playing faster, we will do. But clubs have got to take the initiative to drive play, and the average player has got to take the initiative and say, guys, let's go out here and play in three hours and 45 minutes, and that doesn't happen too many places.
So if I'm watching?? I'm giving you a long answer, but I've been talking about this for a long time. If I'm watching a PGA TOUR player, and I'm going to go through the same pre?shot routine that that player takes, and he's hitting it 69 times and I'm hitting it 93, I'm going to be playing a lot longer than that guy. So it's a different game from that perspective.
And if you notice our players, they move; they don't want to be on the clock. They hit a shot and they move. But there are different variables out here at this level and we measure it pretty carefully.
One thing we are sensitive to is a player who is slow and as such impacts his fellow competitor, which is a different thing from how long it takes to play. That results in some counseling, and we have had good success with counseling.
But I don't think PGA TOUR golf is the culprit here. I think the culprit is taking steps to drive the pace of play for the average player, and if we can be helpful in that regard, we're open to it.
Q. The USGA has a pace of play system they have implemented in all their championships except the U.S. Open, and they feel they need the TOUR to implement a similar system with penalty shotsfor them to be able to introduce it to the U.S. Open.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots. But I don't think penalty shots make a difference to be honest with you.
Conceptually it makes sense. If you're going to put a couple of shots on a guy, it's going to make him play faster. But that's not the culprit. The slow player, even though we have some slow players, is the system that's creating what you're seeing on television.
In today's world, we go to a golf course like we just left in California, Poppy Hills, and you've got like three drivable 5s and a drivable 4, and with a full field in our tournament, you're going to back up. People are going to wait. That's just the way it is. The only way, we have to have smaller fields.
Now, you have players on our TOUR who would say, yes, we do; let's have them. Let's put 130 players out there, 122 players. At Augusta, they get nervous if you are going over a hundred players. And let's have a good pace of play.
We elect not to do that, because as much as we like to see a stronger pace of play, the playing opportunities for the number of players we have had are more important, and we'll generate the playing opportunities first and take our lumps second. It's as simple as that.
Q. The current Q?School system, this is the last year where there's a pre?qualifying and three stages with entry fees around $5,000; depends on what time of year you signed up. I believe there is about 900 people who go through that qualifying system. Looking into the future, I believe there will be a Q?School for the Nationwide; what do you foresee like the detail of that secondary tour as to the duration and the cost?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Are you talking about from an international player perspective or just any non?member?
Q. Any non?member.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, any non?member today would enter the Qualifying School, stage one, go through the Qualifying School and try to earn a card to go on and play.
That player could get a sponsor exemption and earn enough money to win a tournament or win enough money to be in the Top?125 and become a member.
Under the new system, there is no Qualifying School, per se. If you enter the Qualifying School and you get a card, it's to the Nationwide Tour. In the Nationwide Tour, you get in the top 75 and then you go into the three finals and you get a card. You can still do what a non?member does today, by winning the tournament, finishing in the 125; you can still do that.
However, you can also as a non?member get sponsor exemptions and finish in the 126 to 200, go to the finals and go on to the TOUR. So the non?Qualifying School routes are broadened somewhat for the non?member, a kid coming out of college or somebody coming over here or just a non?member.
But the Qualifying School route is not there. The way we have?? in our evaluation of that, we don't see a significant amount of movement in where the 50 cards go today. A certain number go to Nationwide Tour players, a certain number go to players who go to Qualifying School, but where do they come from? If they came out of the 126 to 150 compared to how many get cards today, we don't see a big movement.
We anticipate probably an increase, some increase in the number of cards that are garnered by Nationwide Tour players, and probably some decrease in the number of players who come off of mini?tours or come out of college, but not much. Because the average number?? the last ten years, the average number of players who came out of college, went to Qualifying School, got their card is 1.5 a year.
This is the kind of information that, as it has been reviewed over the last year, has had the impact of quieting concerns that were raised early on that this is going to be a sea change. Because when you really get into the internals, overall, probably not.
A more interesting way to qualify, a better way to qualify, but probably not a sea change in where the players are coming from; some difference. And by the way, we might be wrong. So we'll see.
Q. I probably told you?? it didn't come out right. So let's say that the kid is a junior in college right now, wants to get on to the Nationwide, that would be a separate qualifying just for the Nationwide Tour?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There's one Qualifying School, and all of the cards at the Qualifying School go to the Nationwide Tour.
Q. Do you foresee the entry and the stages to be different??
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, we are going to start off with no change. Sorry.
LAURA HILL: We'll go ahead and transition to your announcement and guests.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: As I mentioned earlier, terrific campaign going on, financial campaign in an effort to really up scale what The First Tee is all about, and I would like to invite Joe Barrow up here with a special guest, and Joe will introduce to give us an example of the kind of support that's coming to The First Tee.
JOE BARROW: Thank you. It's an exciting day for The First Tee. When we ask often times how are we successful and why are we successful, I would define that a lot of the reasons we are where we are today is because of the extraordinary partnerships The First Tee is able to garner at a national level as well as a local level supporting our chapters. These partnerships are from individuals, corporations and foundations because they believe in the fundamental mission of our foundation to impact the lives of young people.
Today I am excited to announce a new partnership and sponsorship today with a company that's 126 years old, and the company is Johnson & Johnson. To be able to have an organization like Johnson & Johnson involved with The First Tee and their belief in community, individuals and family; to align with what we are about, individuals, young people and family, is an extraordinary opportunity for us.
It's a multi?year sponsorship and relationship, and it's going to allow us to do a couple of very important things as it relates to our chapters. No. 1, their involvement is going to allow us to launch a chapter of matching grant program, which will allow us to build a capacity in each of our markets so that they can grow the individual donors and contributors to their efforts. We now have about 34,000 individual donors, if you will, or unique donors throughout our network. We want to grow that to 68,000 over the next several years. The addition of Johnson & Johnson will assist us in doing that.
In addition to that, we will also be in a position to increase and modify our curriculum, do some research, expand our national school program.
So it's an important day for The First Tee. It's an important opportunity for us to partner with an organization and company which we all know and we all use and we are all involved with in some way.
So I'm delighted to invite Michael Sneed, who is the vice president of global affairs for Johnson & Johnson to make a few comments about their involvement.
MICHAEL SNEED: Thanks, everybody. As Joe said, Johnson & Johnson is very pleased to be the first legacy partner with The First Tee. I think from our perspective, we share common values in terms of delivering values to enhance the nation's youth. That's a bond that we hold very dear with regard to our own credo at Johnson & Johnson in terms of caring for families, caring for children and building healthier and happier families throughout the nation.
What's become clear to us is The First Tee has been doing this for quite some time. As you may know, they have already reached over six million children throughout the nation, boys and girls, and with this partnership we hope to accelerate that and strengthen that as we go forward in this multi?year partnership with The First Tee.
This is really core to Johnson & Johnson. As Joe said, we are an organization that's been around for over 125 years, and what we do is really embodied in our credo. And our first responsibility in our credo is to mothers and fathers and children and patients. And so this is a natural extension for us.
We are very pleased to be able to do this and to become the first legacy partner for The First Tee. So, thank you, Joe.
JOE BARROW: Michael, thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Michael, and let me also thank Michael and on behalf of my co?chair of the campaign, Jim McGlothlin, thank you, as well, because the efforts to broaden the reach of The First Tee are moving forward, and today's announcement is a very positive step in that regard.
We would be happy to try to answer any of your questions about The First Tee generally or today's announcement specifically.
Q. Can you talk about the multi?year, how many years and how much the initial grant is going to be from Johnson & Johnson?
JOE BARROW: I'll simply say it's a multi?year commitment and Michael can speak to the amount. (Laughter).
MICHAEL SNEED: Certainly from our perspective, given the fact that we are the first legacy partner, I can tell you it's significant and long term and very much in keeping with the partnerships that we have developed across the world in that when we make this kind of commitment, we want our partners to know that we are going to be there in the long term, so it's very much in keeping with how we run our business day?to?day.
JOE BARROW: As you know, we have had founding partners, which are the PGA TOUR, the PGA of America, the LPGA, the Masters Tournament and the United States Golf Association, and we've had our founding corporate partner with the Shell Oil Company.
The significance of this gift and the longevity of this gift really had us thinking about how could we recognize the unique role that Johnson & Johnson would play over the next years, and that's why we did designate is create a new category of partnership called the legacy partner and we are excited about that.
Q. Has the mission of The First Tee shifted to one of helping to grow the game? It seems like some of the messaging implies that a bit more now than it used to.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think it morphed very early. We started the program in 1997 and the idea was primarily driven by providing access to golf, to primarily kids, and primarily minority kids, because we were focused on kids who had not had access to the game.
As we did the first hundred facilities in those first three years, in meeting with counties and cities, it became abundantly clear that after?school programming should be coupled with a focus on character?building concepts.
After research was done and focus was done, that led to the nine core values which has become a hallmark of The First Tee. In response to that, it also led to the fact that today, over 90 percent of the ground that First Tee facilities sit on has been given to us by counties and cities, in some cases, states, because of the character building side of the equation.
So it's really a program that works both ways. If you're sitting in my chair, you're excited that millions of kids are getting exposed to the game; of those, hundreds of thousands will take up the game in some fashion. Probably all of them will watch the game on television; so I like that.
If you're sitting in the mayor's chair, you're excited that thousands of kids in the community are really changing. Their lives are changing. Their focus is changing. Joe and his team have four different universities measuring those changes and evaluating the changes to see what works. And all you have to do is go to one of these First Tee facilities, talk to these kids and you'll get a sense of what's going on. You really don't need the data, but the data is compelling as well.
It's really a partnership of golf and character building driven and supported by companies like J&J and individuals like Jim McGlothlin who believe in both.
JOE BARROW: The other thing I would add to it is when you look at our life skills experiences Tim is suggesting, and you're seeing that young people are moving in directions that they otherwise wouldn't because we are teaching them how to set goals; and we are teaching them how to have confidence in themselves, to have judgment and to understand the importance of respect in the golf environment but transferring to others; we are driven to reach as many young people as we possibly can, and that's why we have been very aggressive in expanding the national school program. We're in some 4,700 elementary schools in this country in 660 districts. We wants to grow that to 10,000 elementary schools and more, because they see the character impact that golf can play on the lives of these young people and the focus of these young people.
So we are driven really to have a meaningful impact in our society. As you know, one in four people in this country don't graduate high school on time, and we think we can participate in that solution. One in three people in this country are obese or overweight, and with our launch of our nine healthy habits curriculum, we think we can participate in addressing that.
We are very excited with the concept of trying to reach 10 million more young people because we also want to take golf as we are and see golf participate in the challenges that society is facing, and so it's a wonderful opportunities for golf to do so, because golf uniquely can do so because of the inherent values in the game and the tremendous curriculum that we have created and the wonderful coaches who are delivering the curriculum that way.
So you can call it growing the game, you can call it societal impact or you can call it whatever you want, but the beauty is that golf is now in the position to have an influence that heretofore people didn't think golf could do. So we are excited about that.
We also know that young people are playing golf. When we talk to our chapters, some 250,00 young people are playing the game outside of their formal curriculum. 57 percent of them once they left The First Tee were continuing to play golf, and we have some 10,000 or so high school golfers and some 1,700 college golfers.
But at the same time we are reaching millions of young people who may not have that long?term desire but golf is influencing the direction of them and their families, which is a particularly exciting opportunity for us in knowing about the game of golf.
Q. How did Johnson & Johnson find golf? If you're looking at the vast array of organizations that need help in sponsorships, you can take a couple of darts and never hit The First Tee. There are so many out there and many have been around longer than The First Tee has, so how did that relationship get established? Did you call the PGA TOUR? Did someone know someone? Do you ever golfers on your board? This didn't just come?? no one woke up one morning and said we are going to be a sponsor.
MICHAEL SNEED: It's a great question. Let me start with your first piece. Johnson & Johnson is involved with a number of organizations, not just here in the U.S. but globally. We, in fact, on a yearly basis, I think we contribute close to a half a billion dollars, either in product or actual cash to hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations around the world. And a lot of them are focused on healthcare related, so a lot of our efforts are in the poorest parts of the world, and you can imagine that would be the case, given our businesses are focused on pharmaceuticals and OTC medicines and medical devices.
At the same time, we had a big effort and always had a big effort with regards to programs that actually are focused directly on children; and children with regard to, whether it's safety, whether it's overall health, and if you look at what we have done with something like Safe kids; Safe kids is an organization that we have been associated with for over 30 years, very much focused on safety.
If you look at our campaign for nursing's future, which is all about attracting and retaining nursing for healthcare; I think The First Tee, again, it wasn't so much the golf that got us interested. It was more around the idea of these values, and the fact that we fervently believe that developing core, strong character values in the nation's youth is just great for society.
Certainly Tim and Joe are the ones who reached out to Johnson & Johnson, but it became very clearly to us that this was a very perfect match and was really much in keeping with what we have done all along. So with our legacy of caring, our legacy of focusing on families, and made for a good match.
So it was not as if we had to choose something over another because we are so involved in so many things, but we did see this as a unique opportunity to really focus on this idea around character building and values building, and to know that we have got a partner that had also demonstrated it. So the fact that they have already touched and impacted over six million children in the last 15 years or so is impressive, and we knew they had a good, strong track record and thought they would be able to help accelerating that impact going forward.
LAURA HILL: Gentlemen, thank you very much.