USA, Affils Take Kids to the Greens


USA Network's expanded pro golf coverage this year comes with a new outreach effort — the channel will offer youth clinics from most of its PGA Tour stops.

The clinic — developed jointly by USA and the Professional Golfers Association Tour — launched last week in Gilbert and Chandler, Ariz., in conjunction with The Phoenix Open.

Cox Communications Inc. joined the effort, offering signage and media coordination. There will be some degree of affiliate participation in all of USA's clinics, network officials said.

Starting this week, Time Warner Cable in Palm Springs, Calif., will tee off with a youth clinic in Indian Wells, ahead of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

In all, 29 youth clinics are scheduled this year. Each will offer up to 300 children or teenagers instruction on golf fundamentals from PGA tour pros and coaches.

As the Hope Classic is a popular pro-amateur affair that draws in many celebrities, Indian Wells participants will likely get some extra attention from the likes of actor Samuel L. Jackson, National Football League all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith or rock 'n' roller Alice Cooper.

MSO involvement

Each affiliate will decide how much outreach support to lend to USA's clinic efforts. Options include sponsor tie-ins; signage; cross-channel promotions; tour-ticket allocations for employees and guests; or coverage on local-origination channels, regional news networks or local broadcast-TV stations.

Because some systems already have relationships with their local stop on the PGA Tour, "it was more prudent to deal with individual operators over what they could or could not do," said Universal TV group president of network distribution and affiliate relations Doug Holloway.

"The idea is to build on a tour relationship if the system has one, or start a relationship if they don't. We've had some systems come up with unique plans," he added. "As we progress and see what works or not, we'll pass along a set of best practices to our participating affiliates."

USA declined to quantify the program's cost.

Holloway and his team developed the clinic approach for a year, independent of The Golf Channel's own successful youth-outreach effort.

Holloway said USA's golf campaign is complementary to Golf's efforts, as it focuses on multicultural child development that could help develop a generation of golf, USA and cable devotees.

For Cox — already a Phoenix Open sponsor for several years — the tie with USA's youth clinic program is an extension of a pet project already on its calendar: Dream Day, in which several hundred public school kids from a disadvantaged area head to the links and get a meal and T-shirt, as well as learn golf skills. This year's event was scheduled for Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

"That event and what USA's doing aligns to our goals for both community relations and education activities: Improve the lives of people we serve," said Cox spokeswoman Kelly Grysho.

The clinics and school participation in them is coordinated through the Multicultural Golf Association of America, which has staged its own set of youth events for over a decade.

For now, USA is not approaching The Masters, Ryder Cup and other non-PGA events the channel covers about staging clinics. "Not that we won't," Holloway added. "This is the first year of a five-year commitment. We're out to make this work."