My Shot The Nike tour has big league talent, but too many events are run like the minors

March 29, 1999

I've spent 15 seasons on the PGA Tour and, in recent years,
played quite a bit on the Nike tour. There are some significant
differences on the two circuits, and I'm not talking about the
modest prize money and out-of-the-way venues on the Nike tour.

Believe it or not, it costs a lot more money to play on the Nike
tour than on the big Tour. That's pretty strange, considering
that PGA Tour purses are about 10 times higher. For example,
even fully exempt players on the Nike tour pay an entry fee
every week. There's no such fee on the PGA Tour.

Every so often there are no locker rooms for Nike tour players,
which reminds me of my high school days when I pulled my clubs
out of the trunk and changed shoes in the parking lot. Many
times last season there was no food in the clubhouse for the
Nike players. When food was available, players were usually
charged for the privilege of eating. The good news is that there
are courtesy cars on the Nike tour. The bad news: They're for
tournament officials and volunteers, not players. Gallery
control is also inconsistent. Nike players are often disturbed
by spectators standing in their line of vision or making too
much noise.

All of these hindrances would be fine if the Nike tour were
truly a bush league, but it's not. The talent level is almost
99% of what you see on the PGA Tour. For example, last year I
was fortunate enough to shoot a 61 in the San Jose Open, and
Notah Begay III and Doug Dunakey shot 59s in other events. The
fact that none of us won the tournament in which we went low is
a testament to the caliber of play.

The competition on the Nike tour is brutal. Everyone's trying to
fight his way onto, or in my case back onto, the PGA Tour. It's
hard work between the ropes. Too bad we Nike players have to
endure extra hassles that make it that much tougher.

Gene Sauers, 36, has won more than $3 million on the PGA Tour.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)