MEDIA ROUNDUP: Broad coverage leaves few hazards for golf pitches

Golf is a mainstream sports topic, offering coverage of the top pros to tips on pieces of equipment and clothes - for men and women alike. As a result, the avenues for coverage are wide open.

Golf is a mainstream sports topic, offering coverage of the top pros to tips on pieces of equipment and clothes - for men and women alike. As a result, the avenues for coverage are wide open.

Golf may be, as Mark Twain termed it, "a good walk spoiled," but there's no doubt the sport has an appeal that transcends age and gender. The quest for the perfect golf swing is eternal, but even the worst weekend hacker can occasionally match the pros by executing a drive that splits the fairway or holing a 30-foot putt. And it's that elusive quest for consistency as well as a fascination with how the pros can play such a difficult game so well that fuels the public's interest in golf - and drives much of golf journalism. The golf industry - especially the equipment makers - is mired in a bit of slump that has impacted advertising and editorial pages in many magazines dedicated to the sport. But thanks to the perpetual popularity of Tiger Woods (not to mention the anticipation over LPGA superstar Annika Sorenstam, who is about to be the first woman to play against men in a PGA Tour event), golf is thriving as a mainstream sports topic. And even the controversy over the lack of women members at the Augusta National Golf Club had its benefits, calling attention to the sport as a social issue in both the opinion and news pages of many outlets. "The avenues for coverage have increased tenfold," says Steve Brener of Brener Zwikel & Associates. He cites not just mainstream print outlets, but also the internet, radio, and television. "Because of the dollars, all of them have become very important mediums." Take Mike Weir's recent victory in the Masters. While most golf reporters focused on the left-handed Canadian's playoff win and whether or not he can now be considered a true long-term challenger to Woods, the golf business press focused on the impact the win would have on Weir's new clothing line. Ranging from weekend player to pro Golf, along with tennis, stands apart from other sports media in that the journalistic focus is just as likely to be on the casual weekend player as it is to be on the touring professional. As a result, golf reporting can be fairly segmented. Some reporters simply cover the various professional tours, while others tend to focus on equipment and on offering advice to the casual player. Still others cover the business side. There's even a group of dedicated golf travel writers who trek from resort to resort, reviewing the courses they play as well as the hotels and other amenities. Mary Beth Lacy, who represents numerous golf-related companies, including club maker Adams Golf and apparel company Fairway & Greene, says a lot of golf reporters tend to dabble in a bit of everything. "Even the ones who are very tour-oriented will still do maybe two or three equipment stories a year. And some of them also moonlight, and may do something for an internet site." The other thing about golf is its cross-gender appeal, something that should continue to grow thanks to the growing popularity of women players such as Sorenstam. But Lacy says that outside of the website Golf for Women, pitching stories to women's outlets can be a hard sell. "Redbook is not going to cover women's golf products," she says. Most men's titles are in play But any men's outlet seems to be fair game. "I definitely do Maxim, Men's Health, and Men's Journal," says Lacy. "Maxim does a little more gear, so you can pitch them a couple times a year." She adds that higher-end lifestyle magazines such as The Robb Report and even Cigar Aficionado are also open to the occasional pitch on golf equipment or apparel. Michael Olguin, president of San Diego-based agency Formula PR, agrees there are a lot of opportunities for golf-themed stories, but wonders whether many are worth the effort. Olguin, who represents Feel Golf and Sonartec Golf, borrows an analogy from another pastime in saying, "Although it's still a growing sport, you want to fish where the fish are, so you don't want to go too broad. Because our brands are not the biggest brands, we want to reach the consumers who are going to comparison shop." For Olguin, that means focusing primarily on product reviews in print outlets like Golf Digest and Golf. "If we get something in Golf Digest, we can get a reprint and distribute it in pro shops and retailers around the country," says Olguin. "Our goal is to merchandize the media coverage, and with electronic, that's a little bit more difficult." The three main professional golf tours in the US are the PGA, LPGA, and the newly renamed Champions Tour (formerly the Seniors Tour). Brener, who represents stops on all three tours as well as specialty events like the Par 3 Challenge, the Skins Game and this summer's Battle at The Bridges, says he begins pitching about six to eight months before a tournament, and continues right up to the first tee. "We have a media day where we let the reporters play the course so they know what the players will face," he says. "We also try to bring in the defending champion, and we do feature releases." Brener says the key to generating coverage for a tournament is to focus on both local and national reporters. "We pitch the local weatherman to come out and do his reports there," he says. "With the LPGA, some of the players travel with their kids, and there's a day care center so there's a feature you can do on that. We're always looking for angles that can get you off the sports pages." The most influential golf journalists come from a mix of different mediums, and include Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly and Gary Van Sickle, Cliff Brown of The New York Times, Thomas Bonk of the Los Angeles Times, Vartan Kupelian of the Detroit News, Doug Ferguson of the AP, Jerry Potter of USA Today, Lisa Mickey of Golf for Women, and radio hosts such as Tee it Up!'s Keith Jones and Ryan Ballengee of The 19th Hole. Meet and greet reporters As far as the PR tools for reaching out to the golf media, Lacy says, "I'm not a big press-release person, though some reporters do want to have something on paper. Instead I do a lot of one-on-one phone work and e-mail. I also go to a lot of tournaments and visit reporters in the press room." Terry McAndrew, editor of the influential newsletter Golfbiz.net, also reminds PR people to take the time to research every golf reporter's specialty before making a pitch. "You have to know what type of content within the industry that that reporter is looking for," he says. Golf journalism can be very product-driven, so many golf writers receive a lot of equipment and apparel to review. But McAndrew warns that unsolicited products from PR people can have a negative effect, as many journalists are leery of attempts to "buy" their coverage. "It's important for both the reporters and the PR people to understand that there's nothing for free," he says. ----- Where to go Newspapers The New York Times; Los Angeles Times, USA Today; The Wall Street Journal; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Orlando Sentinel; San Diego Union-Tribune; The Washington Post; Raleigh News & Observer Magazines Golf for Women; Golf Monthly; Golf Tips; Bogey; Nicklaus; Golf Digest; Golf; PGA Tour; Sports Illustrated; Maxim; Esquire; FHM; Men's Health; Men's Journal; Men's Fitness; Cigar Aficionado; Worth; Robb Report; T&L Golf Trade Outlets Golf World; Golf Week; Golf Apparel News; Sports Business Journal Television & Radio The Golf Channel; Tee it Up-with Keith Jones; The 19th Hole with Ryan Ballengee; The Travel Channel; ESPN; Fox Sports; Local and national sports radio; PGA Tour radio Internet PGAtour.com; Golfdigest.com; Golfbiz.net; Golfrelated.com; Golflink.com

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