The New Best Hope
Fred Couples brings his magical swing to the Champions Tour and fires up the over-50 competition and its spectators
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, July/August 2010
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Nick Price, three times a major championship winner and among the most affable of all tour players, knows where the tour's bread is buttered.
"The success of our tour is how much value our sponsors get on Wed-nesday and Thursday," Price says. "We are playing with CEOs, presidents, businessmen. These are the people who really get something tangible out of the experience. We have long-established players, major championship winners, playing with these people. It's a very good fit from the age stand-point, the maturity standpoint. It's quite easy to fit together."
And winning isn't quite everything at this age.
"The competition has been de-emphasized I think," Price says. "I mean, it's important to be competitive, but if you are not it's about having fun talking to the galleries and the sponsors. There is a real connection there."
That said, Price knows the value of having Couples' high visibility. "Fred's got a tremendous following and people are going to come out to see him," Price says. "When they come out to see him, then they see a lot of the other players out here, guys in the Hall of Fame, see what fun it can be out at a tournament. Our tournaments are very fan friendly. We interact with the fans more. Golf is unique in that way, and the Champions Tour is the epitome of it. Fans will get to interact with Freddie more closely out here than at a regular tour event."
Price is also advocating changes in the tour to make it more interesting. "I just think we have too many 54-hole stroke play tournaments and they can get boring," says Price. "I think we ought to have some more team events like the Legends of Golf. I think it would be neat to team up with the LPGA for a team event. There are things we can do to change things up and going forward I think we need to do that. We can't stand still and just hope people come out to see us."
Just how long fans will be able to see Couples play is guesswork. His chronically bad back can go out on him at any time. Last fall he stopped playing because of back issues. He was the captain of the Americans' victorious Presidents Cup team. He turned 50 last October and was eligible for two Champions Tour events, but chose to skip them in favor of rest and recuperation and his captaincy.
"My time is pretty much on the Champions Tour and I think I can compete here," says Couples. "Now I have got to figure out for how long. And if it's for three or four years, I think that's great, if I can last that long."
Even if Couples' competitive career is that short, it just might be enough time for the Champions Tour to gain traction. As Dick's Sports Goods director Karedes said: "Fred will sell tickets. People will drive to see Freddie."
Jeff Williams is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.
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