I’m not sure about anyone else but I sure got tired of all the mock NFL drafts last week. It’s a phenomenon I don’t understand and I wish someone could explain it to me. What’s all the excitement about college kids who haven’t proven a damn thing? They haven’t earned their helmet stickers yet and an entourage of cameras follows them dawn to dusk reporting every move. Guaranteed contracts, they have been the slow death of team sports.

If you look at some statistics baseball players have their best years when they are up for free agency and an off year after they sign a new contract. I understand career longevity and injury risks necessitate these contracts, but it sure does breed a bit of complacency. Large golf purses have created a mass of players only trying to make a good living and not looking for wins, but they have to earn it each year. If Jerry Kelly had a guaranteed contract do you think he would have played New Orleans this week after his flu and ribcage issues in Hilton Head.

Sponsors, equipment companies, and corporate advertising definitely help the pro’s coffers, but if they aren’t playing well those offers don’t come knocking. Robert lost all his advertising money after two years of so-so golf; some of those (Titleist) had been with him since his rookie year. If you don’t produce in golf you don’t get paid unlike the other sports. Golf is still the lowest paying professional sport; compare the numbers if you like. The top one hundred or so PGA players made a million last year. What is the average salary in baseball? Baseball’s minimum salary is close to a million; go figure.

Young amateurs turning pro are still lavished with all sorts of money through contractual advertising deals; I guess you could call that guaranteed money. The new Detroit Lions QB, Stafford, just pulled down more than three times the amount the top PGA money winner will make this year. He’ll probably spend some time on the bench, and may not ever see a Super Bowl. The top money winner will win two or three tournaments, maybe a major, and earn his share of the dough. Golfers still do it the old fashion way; they earn it. Granted they are pampered while earning there way, but a lot of them are like Jerry Kelly, they keep grinding and work their butts off.

It was nice to see Jerry hang in there, maintain his composure, and pull it out at the end. Our Wisconsin buddy may not have have won a few years back; his hockey temper used to get in the way. He was cool, calm, and collected all day even after the rough start; his trips overseas visiting the troops have definitely mellowed the high strung golfer. Jerry and Frank Lickliter have spearheaded these ventures the last four years; they have piqued the soldier’s moral and also changed the attitudes of the golfers making the trip. They have definitely put things into perspective.

During the CBS/Golf Channel broadcast this week you heard a lot about the PGA Tour’s volunteer efforts. New Orleans has bounced back with the help of many, and the tour has played a large part. During the NFL draft all you heard about was individual accomplishments on the gridiron. Team sports promoting individuals just doesn’t make sense to me. David Toms, Kenny Perry, along with others have teamed with local bayou businesses; you don’t hear a lot about their endeavors, but they have meant a lot to the Crescent City’s resurgence.

Jerry Kelly is a true tribute to the old guard. He plays golf; he doesn’t try to methodically repeat a swing shot after shot. Sorry Chas III, you’re having a good career; you’ll have to escape from the video camera someday and learn how to play this wonderful game. The next level is all about playing the game, creating shots, and feeling your way around the course. Cameras on the driving range for hours doesn’t make a great golfer.

Congratulations Jerry you’ve earned it and you definitely deserve the accolades. It may not have been the prettiest of wins, but it was a “W”, and makes those long, cold, practice sessions in Madison easier this winter. Your smile and acknowledgement of the eighteenth gallery defined the person you have become; I wish everyone could see your efforts during clinics with the Armed Forces and their families. I became a big fan at that blustery clinic during the Memorial last year; you battled the elements and provided the troops something special. What goes around comes around; you’ve got a lot coming your way.

Speaking of the old guard, I did take a peak at the Legends in Savannah; it was nice to see some old caddy player teams together. Sindelar and “Bucky” are the longest running tandem on tour followed closely by Stadler and Dolph, and Forsman and Piddler. Lehman and Andy have been together for quite awhile but nothing like the trio. I know there have been a few separations over the years but they always got back together after a few weeks away from each other.

Those guys have had a lot of fun over the years and they have had some difficult moments. Camaraderie is a big part of the tour and those long standing relationships, whether they be player/caddy, player/tournament, tournament/corporate sponsor, are intergal. It’s a bunch of independent contractors making a very good living, but they earn it and they give some back to the community. The stars get a lot of hype but the backbone of the PGA Tour is made up of guys like Jerry.

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