Tournament Payout Depth

After the Maple Hill Open last week, Paul McBeth posted on Facebook about the depth of tournament payouts. He stated that he felt that a player who performed far worse received compensation far above what it should have been, especially when compared to the scores of those who competed at a higher level. I can’t recall the words exactly, it looks as though the post has since been removed.

In other words, those who placed near the top took less because the payout was spread across a broad number of people. Paul was both negatively blasted and praised for his comments.

What is “Payout Depth”

The payout depth is the percentage of competitors who receive a payout. You can view the PDGA “Pro Payout Table” here. Clicking the link will prompt you to download a .xls file. With this scale, the top 45% receive a payout. The last 20 paid receive 37% of the payout.

When looking at the issue, the comments boiled down to two issues with payouts:

Should Tournament Payouts Promote Champions or Promote More Participation?

The argument is that when a regular champion receive more, others are less inclined to take part in the sport. I think that assumption is false.

Disc Golf Needs a Champion. Why Tiger Woods was Good for Golf

I once lived in Denver, where Sports Authority is headquartered, and became friends with one of the Chief Executives. He and I were lounging on a Sunday watching “ball golf”, and Tiger Woods was on the brink of losing his 5 stroke lead in the final round. With only a 1 stroke difference between him and Woody Allen and two holes left to play, what was once a leisure game of golf became intense. This executive was depending on Tiger Woods to come out victorious. I inquired why, and he said that when there is a champion which people can cheer for, the sport thrives and sales increase. In the end, Tiger was victorious, much to the relief of my executive friend.

I share that story to kick this post off, because disc golf needs a Tiger Woods. Yes, for sales. Money coming into disc golf is a good thing for places like Infinite Discs; I’m not going to hide that. So if you feel I’m bias, that’s why.

But it’s more than just dollars and cents. Champions are good for the competition, the passion, the structure, and most importantly, the fanaticism. It’s what we love in sports and what keeps us coming back – champions being challenged by underdogs, champions thriving, champions being disparaged by competitors fans, dynasties, and dynasties falling to a new one. This is what enthralls us in a sport and keeps us coming back for more.

Why Compete in a Disc Golf Tournament?

When players arrive at a tournament they want to have fun, they want to compete, they want to feel the pressure of being at the top, and they want to win. I don’t know anyone who entered a tournament who had already mentally visioned and accepted their fate of taking last place. That player would not show up on competition day. Players dream of and talk about standing atop the winners podium.

Nearly every player outside of the touring professionals are underdogs; and that’s understood. In Utah we have the Mello Yello Challenge at the Solitude Disc Golf Course. When Paul McBeth arrives in August to compete after Worlds, each player in his division will be aiming to be on the lead card with him at the end, and then to win at the final round. Who wouldn’t want to play with and score better than the top rated player in the world!? Just to amaze yourself.

Then you would realize you’re taking home a giant check, too.

When all is said and done, many players scores will fall far outside of those in the winners circle. Most of the players will not be paid. Will they be disappointed and vow never to return to a disc golf tournament? Probably not. If they vow never to return, they probably had more issues than just their score with that tournament. Disc golfers are generally easy-going, happy to participate and compete, own-my-own-results type of people. Will they be a bit bummed that they didn’t play better? Usually they are. If every competitor expected to receive payouts for mediocre or horrible performance, that would be a culture issue that needed to be addressed. Competition is not about making everyone a winner, it’s about rewarding excellence.

Many ‘losers’ will go home with stories about amazing shots, flashes of brilliance, and eagerness to improve and compete at a higher level next year – maybe even get into the money… real money, not consolation money as a result of paying a deep field, that wouldn’t even cover gas.

By removing payout for those in the middle of the pack and bumping that up to the winners, nobody will be offended. Winners will be properly rewarded, and more inclined to focus on winning and dedicating further efforts to growing the sport (and therefore increasing their competition field… and therefore increasing their future payouts). Those who don’t win will work harder to improve as well.

Players Competing For Money Are Greedy

This is one of the reasons why the NBA and I get along less and less. Paul was blasted in his post for wanting more money, with critics saying that he just needs to learn to enjoy the ride. Here’s the reality of most top touring pros right now, including Paul – they’re not that wealthy. These pros stay in the most affordable accommodations available. Prior to competitions,  some ask for floor space to sleep on to save a few extra bucks. So yes, money can corrupt the love and passion in the sport… but touring pros are driven by the survival instinct right now. A little extra money to set aside for a home and hotel accommodations while touring is not greedy.

What about “sandbagging?”

We all know the players I’m talking about, the ones who are clearly more advanced than the division in which they are competing. I know some individuals who play intermediate regularly, even though they may take 3rd overall in the tournament. Ironically, if those individuals would have played up another division they would have won more, as the payouts in the more advanced divisions pay fewer people. In this blog post, I am not arguing for modifying amateur and lower division payouts. Continue to keep those payouts flat. In those divisions, reward participation. Keep the top division payouts aggressive, steep, and reward excellence. This, too, encourages players to improve so they can get better payouts.

Players Need to Get Sponsors Instead of Complaining About Low Payouts

Many of the comments blamed players for low payouts and their failure to obtain sponsorships. As one of the owners of a rapidly growing disc golf brand, I would love to reach into my pockets and sponsor more players… But, I don’t want to offend anybody, there are a few reality checks to visit:

Reality #1: Disc golf is small (even though it is growing).
Reality #2: Disc golf is not very profitable (yet).

For a sponsor, it’s all about ROI (Return on Investment). A smart sponsor will reach their target audience by sponsoring (which would be disc golf companies like Infinite Discs). Disc golf companies are strapped for cash due to high competition in a relatively small market, and other sponsors hesitate because they want to connect with their target audience and get decent return as well. However, there is no single great way to reach all disc golfers and get a solid ROI. For that reason, the obtaining of sponsors cannot be put squarely on the players shoulders – it actually needs to be put on all disc golfers shoulders.

How? Disc golf will continue to grow steadily throughout the United States and the world. Disc golfers need to respect their courses, respect others, and to invite others out to play. At Infinite Discs we try to encourage others to grow the sport through giveaways such as this: #growthesport campaign.

On another post I’ll focus on great ways to grow the sport, as well as the best ways to get more courses in your area. Some people have a difficult time with wanting to grow the sport, as it will become more “main stream.” Obviously, I don’t have a problem with that, it helps feed my family and hopefully I’ll be able to save something for a rainy day. I also like to see the sport grow because it’s a fantastic recreational activity for all ages. It pulls people out doors, it brings us to beautiful places in which we live, and it’s a cost-effective answer to recreation for cities. Nothing wrong with having more courses to play within a short driving distance!

Let me know what your thoughts are on the article above and what you’d like to see more of! Here’s to next time!

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