A professional golf tournament taking place in the Bay Area is always a tough sell.

There is a lot of competition for the sports entertainment dollar in the area and unless the golf tournament is a major event such as the U.S. Open when it comes to Pebble Beach, or say the President’s Cup when it was at Harding Park, it fights for both attendance and for coverage.

When the tournament is a Web.com event – the feeder to the PGA Tour – it’s even tougher for the tournament to draw spectators or coverage.

That is, unless the tournament organizers make it an event.

Enter the Ellie Mae Classic that takes place this week at the TPC Stonebrae in the Hayward hills.

The Web.com Tour, while made up of future PGA Tour stars, as well as veterans trying to find their way back to the regular tour, is a tough sell. Even though both the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants are bottom feeders this year, there is still fan interest and given they are playing each other, the fan interest is huge.

Also, football training camps are under way, and families are getting in their final vacations before school starts. So how do you generate interest in your golf tournament?

Bring in Steph Curry to play.

The Golden State Warriors mega-star is an avid golf – and a talented one – as well as arguably the most popular athlete in Northern California. Giving him a sponsors’ exemption to play is a no-brainer.

(Please see the accompanying story for a complete breakdown of Curry’s press conference https://acesgolf.com/steph-currys-question-and-answer-pres-conference-at-the-elliemae-classic/.

There will be those that say giving Curry a spot in the field takes away from a player trying to make a living, but those people are shortsighted.

At the end of the day, the end game for any event is to generate interest, both from the fans, as well as the media. Having Curry in the field does both – overwhelmingly.

Tuesday out at Stonebrae would normally be a ghost town, but that Curry had a press conference at 3 p.m. following his practice round has got pretty much every media outlet in the Bay Area – and some nationally – out in force.

I got to the course four hours before the press conference and the media lot had more cars than it probably will over the weekend.

You can’t buy that type of coverage. In addition, at least through the first two rounds of the tournament, Curry playing will guarantee coverage of all the local networks, both on television and radio. What’s left of the newspaper world will be running updates.

If Curry makes the cut – odds are stacked against him – the weekend will be huge for the tournament. Tuesday there were a host of fans out on the course, all wearing Warriors jerseys in hopes of securing an autograph.

I can pretty much guarantee you these were not the usual golf tournament fans that were out there. That’s the key – bring out the fringe or non-golf fans- that makes the tournament.

There will be fans out on Thursday and Friday to watch the first two rounds of the tournament, and should he make the cut, the gate will be much bigger over the weekend. Coverage would be the same – every newscast will have a mention of the tournament.

There was talk amongst the PGA Tour staff at Stonebrae that Curry talk was all the rage at the Barracuda Championships in Reno. In fact, the staff I was around in the press room were downright giddy about Curry.

I have been in media centers for U.S. Opens, a President’s Cup and regular tour events and have never seen the PGA Tour so excited – on a Tuesday as well. The PGA Tour’s social media sites were getting huge hits within an hour of the end of the press conference.

Tuesday following his round, there was a mass of media waiting off the 9th green for chance to talk with Curry. Far different than his post NBA pressers, Curry was still at home with the throng albeit a bit out of his basketball comfort zone.

“Making the cut would require me to play the best two rounds of my life,” said Curry of making the cut. “I am sure I will have some jitters Thursday – that will be a whirlwind of a day.”

Can he make the cut? Time and 36 holes will tell, but be sure he has a better chance than Jerry Rice had in the times he played the tournament under an exemption.

Curry is a better golfer and has been playing longer. In addition, he’s younger whereas Rice was retired from the NFL.

Both have intense competitive streaks, but Curry is just young enough not to be intimidated by stepping on to the course with actual touring professionals. Curry spent Monday and Tuesday soaking up as much knowledge from the Tour pros as possible.

He has played the course on a number of occasions, but those usually come during the season when he plays maybe once a month and the conditions are not as tough as he is facing here.

Whether he makes the cut or not is not as important as that he was just out there playing and bringing out fans to the tournament.

By Dennis Miller

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