Butterfield Bermuda Championship not immune to lure of LIV Golf
Corporate ambition and personal greed are feeding a vicious power struggle in professional golf, and the Butterfield Bermuda Championship is not immune from the very public spat between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.
Bermuda's signature event has been impacted both on and off the course as LIV Golf slowly siphons away the established tour’s talent pool with the backing of Saudi Arabia, and the upstart organisation has secured the services of the man who has been heading the planning and organisation of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship since 2019.
Faced with disenfranchised players and caddies from inside the ropes who have jumped ship and found what they say is a happier and far more lucrative home, it appears the PGA Tour is now losing administrative talent from outside the ropes.
Sean Sovacool, the events management professional whose Alabama-based Bruno Event Team was contracted to manage the tournament, has been the man behind the big event.
But instead of preparing for this and the FedEx Cup event (October 27 to 30), he is in Miami and finalising logistics for LIV Golf’s season-ending tournament (October 28 to 30).
Sovacool left his home in Bermuda and his tournament responsibilities earlier this year after spending several years organising multiple events on the PGA Tour, but while he politely refuses to discuss his reasons behind the switch, he is keen to emphasise just how much he misses the island.
“I miss everybody in Bermuda so much and I really hope that you have an awesome week for the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. I look forward to getting back to the island to have some fun.”
Since moving back to the States, he and four business associates have formed their own sports event management company, and a deal with LIV Golf proved too good an opportunity to pass up.
The Par 5 Group found offices in March, started working in April and is now managing all LIV Golf tournaments in the United States.
Its responsibilities are expected to grow, with word that five American-based LIV Golf events in 2022 may increase to eight or nine events in 2023.
“It’s been a fun journey and a really challenging year,” Sovacool said. “I began in Portland, where I was for about three months, then I went over to Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey for a month and then Boston for a month.
“I’m down at Doral in Miami getting ready for the week here. Unfortunately, we are up against the [Butterfield] Bermuda Championship, so I can’t get back to see my friends.”
LIV Golf shook the sporting landscape after launching with seemingly unlimited funds from the investment arm of the Saudi Arabian Government, a development that has launched geopolitical arguments among even those who have no knowledge of the difference between a birdie and a bogey.
The average PGA Tour purse split among players grew this year to a record $9.1 million for the four-day tournaments, but the 2022 LIV Golf purse is averaging $25 million for a day’s less work.
This week’s LIV event splits $50 million among 48 golfers, with the Bermuda purse splitting $6.5 million among some 70 participants.
When asked about the increase in money on offer, Sovacool was diplomatic.
“I’ve done this for 30 years and for me it is about a new challenge,” he said.
“Certainly, the money is nice, but there is a challenge in doing something new, growing something new in the world of golf. It will be interesting to see where it takes us.”