How does the PGA, players attract young fans? Social media, of course

Perhaps PGA golfer Grayson Murray said it best when he tweeted this out last month:

Only 23 years old, the often outspoken Murray is on to something. In the 2016 season, some of the biggest PGA tournaments, including The Masters and the U.S. Open, suffered a decline in television ratings.

The lowered ratings are a microcosm of golf’s struggle to break through and connect with a younger audience. With sports like football, cricket and basketball among the most popular in the world, those in charge of the gentlemen’s game are beginning to realise they must turn to social media to attract the next generation of golf fans.

That explains why the PGA Tour teamed up with Twitter to stream the first 60-90 minutes of the first two rounds of each tournament. On top of hardcore golf fans now being able to watch the rounds not broadcasted on television, millennials are now prone to stumble on the stream while tweeting.

The free digital stream also gives users a taste of PGA TOUR LIVE, an app that provides coverage of the early rounds, as well as featuring full-round replays, an up-to-date leaderboard, and player highlights.

“Obviously, it helped drive subscription rates [for PGA TOUR LIVE] because once people get a free taste of what we’re providing, especially if you’re a fan, there’s just no reason not be a part of it,” said PGA Tour Entertainment senior producer Chris Sinclair. “I think that’s helped in turn the amount of interaction with the Twitter account. That’s gone way up since we’ve been doing live Twitter in the mornings. It’s great.”

However, there is only so much the PGA can do to promote golf to a younger audience. The real key to fostering that connection is the players.

With each passing year, more and more athletes who grew up in the Internet era are participating in PGA tournaments. Professional golfers like Max Homa and Rickie Fowler are constants on Twitter and social media, cracking jokes and revealing their personality for all to see, something that wasn’t typical of PGA players in years past.

“I think the stigma of golf is that it’s highly gentlemanly and no one ever says anything wrong and no one ever swears and no one ever drinks a beer and everyone’s perfectly straight edge,” Homa told USA Today. “It puts people on this crazy pedestal that they could never live up to, so they become robots. … It’s a weird revolving door, you can’t win.”

Fellow PGA Tour golfer Billy Horschel agrees, adding that players showing some personality and emotion on the golf course can also help the sport grow.

“I think it only helps grow the game when you see the personalities of the game,” Horschel said. “(Fans) don’t want to see robots on the golf course. They want to see the guy just like everyone else is at home, throwing clubs, and they’re all cussing. I think they want to see some personalities from players.”

What better way for players to show their personality than by interacting with fans through social media?

If the PGA truly wants to connect with the younger audience, perhaps they should brief the players on the dos and don’ts of social media, something the LPGA does for all of their rookies. So Yeon Ryu, for example, attended the media training session and is now one of the most popular LPGA golfers on Twitter.

Ryu, who is from South Korea, says she uses social media to connect with fans overseas. This brings up another good reason for players to be active online; golf has a growing international fan base. 84 international athletes played on the PGA Tour in 2014, with that number continuing to grow. In the LPGA, 64 of the current Top 100 are from outside the United States.

“I think that’s one of the biggest reason why I keep very active on Instagram or Twitter,” Ryu told LPGA.com. “They really want to know how we prepare for the tournament, how are we swinging and what’s our hobby, what we want to eat.”

Fellow LPGA pro Lexi Thompson shared similar thoughts to LPGA.com, adding she prefers using Instagram to give fans a look into her lifestyle.

“A lot of people that follow me on Instagram want to see my personal life and what do I do to train, practice or what do I do off the golf course, just to enjoy life,” Thompson said. “I’m happy to be able to show them; give a little insight on the real Lexi Thompson, not just the pro golfer.”

Ryu and Thompson opening up via social media will likely do wonders for the women’s game, and if more and more male golfers take to social media to interact with fans, the PGA can expect more and more young viewers tuning into Twitter to watch their new favorite sport.

About author

Nick Frazier
Nick Frazier 17 posts

Nick is an intern for Snack Media and a contributor to Digital Sport. You can follow him on Twitter @nikfraz14.

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