June 18, 2009

The Weather Soaks The Course, And The USGA Soaks First-Day Ticket Holders

As I tweeted earlier today, the USGA has decided to not refund or exchange any tickets for the lost first round of the US Open today at Bethpage...and people who spent the day seeing only a few holes of golf are not happy about the decision.

Golf.com's Press Tent: No Refunds or Rainchecks for US Open Ticket Holders

"According to the USGA's Rand Jerris, Thursday's abbreviated round -- in which the lead group made it to only the 11th hole -- counts as a day of golf and the USGA will not issue refunds or rain checks. While the tournament could finish on Monday due to forecasts for continued rain, Jerris said the USGA has not made a decision regarding possible tickets for Monday. However, Thursday tickets will not be honored and fans can throw them away, Jerris said.

"Jerris could not answer questions about how the no-refund decision was made or if there is a set number of holes or time on the course that constitutes a "day" of golf. He referred those question to USGA higher-ups who were not immediately available for comment. The extensive fine print on the back of the ticket does not cover the USGA's rain-delay policies, and no clear explanation of rain-check policy is contained in the USGA's online spectator guide."

(note: I added the link above to the fine print)

In the past, ticket conditions for USGA events have had the statement (which I will paraphrase from memory) that if one golfer strikes one shot, they consider that a day of golf and that no refunds or rainouts will be issued." That's missing from this year's policies, but I saw it in my Pinehurst ticket packages and remember it quite well because I made a point to tell that to anyone who was interested in buying one of my spare tickets and going with me to see the action. I wanted them to know they were taking on the risk I already had, and that I wouldn't be the one issuing them a refund, because that was the USGA policy. After all, it is not unheard of to have a rainy day in June in North Carolina. In fact, the storm now plaguing Bethpage spent Monday through early this morning here before moving north.

In my mind, that's a pretty severe and stingy policy on the USGA's part. Most sports have some form of partial rainout policies -- for example, most car races are not considered official if one car passes the start-finish line at the start of a race, nor is a baseball game official until two-thirds of the event has been played.

Even the USGA's own handicapping rules say that over two-thirds of a round must be played for it to count towards the whole. If a golfer doesn't complete 13 holes, they can only record nine for handicap purposes. That's a long way from hitting one shot off of the first tee.

Come Monday, if the US Open is not finished, crowds will start to thin as people who've planned to attend the event must return to duties at home and their jobs. If it goes to Tuesday, the US Open crowd may well resemble one might expect at a first round of a second-tier PGA Tour event -- in other words, empty grandstands and sparse crowds everywhere else.

The well-heeled organization would do well to generate itself some good PR and offer the soaked (in two ways, literally and financially) fans free entrance to Monday or at the very least a greatly reduced price for those days if it comes to it. Or they could offer a discount to next year's event.

But it's easier to keep the money and let people's irritation go by the wayside, just like any other heartless corporation. This is something that folks will remember when the USGA comes calling for donations in the future, and they can forecast that a lot more reliably than the weather over Bethpage this weekend.

1 comment:

  1. The USGA really needs to look long, hard look at itself. If their goal is to grow the game they're clearly going about it in the wrong way.


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