TOUR GOLF CLUB AIMS TO SWING CORPORATE DEALS: TOP PROS JOIN FORCES TO WIN MORE LICENSING, MARKETING BUCKS

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Golf professionals, taking a page from other sports playbooks, are teeing up their own licensing and marketing organization called Tour Golf Club.

A total of 35 leading golf pros, including Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Beth Daniel, have formed a licensing and merchandising group similar to that of the NFL's Quarterback Club. Tour Golf will market its own group sponsorship, which won't affect deals made by individual players or the Professional Golfers' Association.

Through the new organization, players are trying to even the scales with other professional sports -- particularly baseball, football, basketball and hockey, which reel in far more lucrative merchandising deals and salary compensation. With the exception of Tiger Woods, players find it harder to win big on-air corporate sponsorship money.

$2.5 MIL FOR DUVAL

Top golfer David Duval, for example, last year raked in a record $2.5 million from his winnings on the PGA Tour. That's peanuts compared to the yearly take of the average Major League Baseball shortstop or an NBA point guard.

"Golf is kind of misunderstood," said Giff Breed, head of marketing at Pros, the Richmond, Va., golf sports agency that put together Tour Golf. "There really isn't that much corporate sponsorship money."

"We are trying to create an ancillary brand for [marketers] that want to get involved with golf but don't want to [have an association with] a specific player," he said.

The group's first deal is with CA One Services, an airport retail-shop developer that opens its first Tour Golf Club this week in Austin, Texas, at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The shop will sell Tour Golf-branded merchandise, clothing and golf gifts.

CA One is representative of the kind of client Tour Golf is seeking. Rather than going after major consumer product companies, the group has deals pending with smaller companies, such as shoe insole manufacturer Kemmler Systems, furniture maker J. Royal Co. and specialty winemaker Celebrity Cellars.

ON THE WEB

Tour Club also has an agreement with eGreens, an New York Internet developer that produced the group's Web site (www.tourgolfclub.com).

Other targeted categories include credit cards, insect repellent, sports nutritional foods, theme restaurants and vitamins.

While it won't specify fees, Tour Club said it's seeking a modest upfront revenue commitment from partners.

"We basically said to our partners, 'Give us what is fair,' " said Mr. Breed. "We want an upfront fee -- but we don't want them to take the license and sit on it. If we suck too much money out of a partner, they may not be able to advertise or promote it."

The advantage of Tour Golf, Mr. Breed said, is that the average golf professional doesn't have the time to make all the promotional appearances necessary to win a corporate sponsor. This allows Tour Golf to spread the appearance load among some 30 other golfers.

It's also hoped that as a group, the players will bring more sponsorship funding to the sport. Last year, only $4.5 million in deals were made for the use of the PGA logo. That's compared to the estimated $100 million the NFL brings in

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