One of sports biggest superstars is taking his talents to the golf course to play in a professional event. On Wednesday, the Web.com Tour announced that two-time NBA MVP/golf addict Steph Curry has accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play with the big boys in the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic during the first week of August.
Curry will receive a sponsor exemption to play in this year’s Ellie Mae Classic, the Web.com Tour event in Hayward on Aug. 3-6. The Chronicle confirmed Curry’s participation Tuesday, in advance of Wednesday morning’s official announcement.
This makes perfect sense for the tournament, held annually at TPC Stonebrae. Curry offers hard-to-match star power — two-time MVP, two-time NBA champion, wildly popular in the Bay Area — to an event accustomed to sailing below the radar.
— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) June 28, 2017
Curry is an avid golfer who carries a 2.0 handicap index, according to the Northern California Golf Association website. He has posted 11 scores this month, mostly in the mid-70s (with a low of 71).
“When I found out I was getting a sponsor exemption, I had a lot of emotions because I love to play golf; it’s a passion of mine,” Curry said. “But to be able to play against the next and best golf professionals will be a huge honor and huge treat.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully not embarrassing myself, but mostly having a lot of fun and hopefully raising a lot of money for the foundation. … I’m going to try to keep it in the fairway.”
The Ellie Mae Classic benefits the Warriors Community Foundation. Tournament Director Trish Gregovich reached out to team officials in early June, during the NBA Finals. Curry quickly accepted the invitation.
However, the decision caused quite the controversy among the golf community, including this tweet from professional golfer Lee McCoy:
Steph Curry, a 2.2 handicap, is getting a sponsor’s exemption into a Web event. So many great players could use that chance. Sad
— Lee McCoy (@LeeMcCoyGolf) June 28, 2017
While McCoy may have a valid point, Golf Digest’s Joel Beall addressed the criticism and attempted to rationally explain it in more than 140 characters:
Make no mistake, Curry can hold his own as a golfer. Conversely, other athletes that are better hackers than the NBA star — most notably, John Smoltz and Jerry Rice — had disastrous results in their attempts to crack the game’s professional ranks. To think a different fortune awaits Curry is delusional.
Yet, this doesn’t discredit his invite. One of the intentions behind sponsor’s exemptions, particularly at the minor-league level, is to drum up interest for the event. In that regard, this move is an unmitigated success: a Web.com Tour stop asserting itself into national discussion, to say nothing of the attendance Curry’s presence will bring.
Moreover, though this exemption sometimes translates to an opportunity for an up-and-coming talent or the best player not in the field, it often manifests in a tournament giving a spot to a local, hoping to appease the hometown fans. Or worse, as Golf.com’s Gary Van Sickle pointed out, it’s often who you know — rather than what you’ve done — that earns a sponsor’s exemption.
Taking it one step further, PGA Tour Radio host Matt Adams passionately explained his views on the matter:
Whether you agree with the decision or not, one thing’s for sure: it’s working already.
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