Local golfers, sports business expert react to PGA Tour, LIV Golf merger

There was a bombshell in the world of golf on Tuesday as the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf announced.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 2:41 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2023 at 5:23 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - There was a bombshell in the world of golf on Tuesday as the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf announced.

“Well, my instant reaction to the news is…it’s a little surprising,” said Jim Masteralexis, associate sports business professor at Western New England University.

“I’m in a state of shock right now,” added Mike O’Neill, PGA Golf professional at Chicopee Country Club.

On Tuesday morning, news of the merger between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf sent shockwaves through the sports world.

“All the last year and a half, the PGA Tour kind of fought for what they thought was right and now, it seems like it’s just gone by the wayside,” O’Neill added.

LEARN MORE: PGA Tour and European tour agree to merge with Saudis and end LIV Golf feud

LIV Golf was founded in 2021 and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The upstart tour offered golf’s biggest stars - including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson - hundreds of millions of dollars to jump ship, disrupting the PGA Tour model that existed for over a century and it worked.

“Some of the important issues in this case of partnering or being in partnership with Saudi Arabia, that has a really terrible human rights record,” Masteralexis added,

Western Mass News found PGA Tour golfers weighing in on social media saying “I feel betrayed” and “I love finding out morning news on Twitter.”

Meanwhile, Mickelson added with a grin, “awesome day today.”

“I was PGA all the way. [Reporter: why?] I think they were offered a lot of money to go over there to play. Guys over here were earning their money,” said Tom Robak of Chicopee.

The two sides were in the middle of an antitrust lawsuit after the PGA Tour announced any player who joined LIV Golf would be banned from PGA Tour competition.

“The PGA was prohibiting and banning players from playing on the PGA Tour if they went over to LIV and that’s a restraint of their trade…the trade of a golfer is playing golf,” Masteralexis explained.

Now, the bitter foes will create a “new, collectively owned, for-profit entity” and the best players in the world will compete on the same course again.

“Three years ago, LIV Golf was nowhere. They didn’t exist…LIV Golf made a big impact here …so I think they have to be happy with merging with the premier league in golf,” Masteralexis noted.

“I’m glad it happened because I’m sick of hearing about all the ‘who’s good, who’s bad and whatever’ and it’ll make golf a better game,” Robak added.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who was at the center of negotiations, received his master’s degree in sports business from UMass Amherst. In statement, Monahan said, in part:

“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love…to create an organization that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans.”