Thursday, August 14, 2014


August 13, 2014

Mr. Bryant Gumbel
c/o HBO
1100 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Gumbel:
Your very sad video about the future of golf prompts this letter. I am a former Chief Justice of Michigan and Founder of Cooley Law School. You and I met in an airport in Orlando, and I recall you telling me that your father was a Judge. After my retirement about twelve years ago, I made a serious effort to organize a professional golf league. I called it the American Golf League.

I recruited club PGA professionals and created four teams: the Detroit Drivers, the Cleveland Wedges, the Chicago Shooters and the Minnesota Maulers. We conducted two games: the Shooters beat the Wedges and the Drivers were defeated by the Maulers.

Players were decked out in traditional golf wear, ala Payne Stewart. They looked great and very much enjoyed the games.

Unfortunately, I am just one man, and not a very wealthy one at that. After investing about $30,000 in the project, I heeded my wife’s counsel and folded the tent.


Still, I cannot get rid of the thought that I was right and the rest of the world was wrong. Arnold Palmer would never see me, nor would Tim Finchem and the rest of the establishment. Greg Norman wrote in reply to my overture that “golf is an individual sport” and would not work as a team game. Apparently he discounts the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup, etc.

The only golf icon to listen was Jack Nicklaus; a real gentleman and a champion in every sense of the word. I enclose a copy of his letter to me.

Of course, team golf requires some thinking outside the box, a place unknown to the powers that be in the ancient and honorable game. Fifteen inch holes? Using a soccer ball? Indeed!  What are they thinking?
I invented and patented a game. I called it Golfball. Made sense to me. Just like foot…, basket… and base…, the other major team sports.

Briefly, Golfball is a nine man team, match play format, which starts with a shot gun with one match on each of nine holes. The score of the game is the total number of holes won by each team. Every match goes the full eighteen holes, and extra holes are played in case of a tie.

Bud Selig’s successor will be chosen today. Can you imagine the ruckus if the new Commissioner were to announce that he is cancelling the 2015 baseball schedule in favor of conducting an All Star game every week in a different city?

And yet, that is exactly what major league golf does.

Do the math. How many professional golfers are there? How many professional baseball players? In which sport are the players better paid? In which sport do the players get more television exposure?  In which do the players get to sleep at home more nights? In which sport are there local heroes, local fans, local news coverage?

And the kids. The USGA, the PGA and the Tour all support the First Tee. It’s a noble cause, but let’s face it, you are not going to create a generation of enthusiastic golfers by taking kids to the driving range for hours of practice. From Tee ball, to kid’s hockey and soccer, the thing that gets them, and their parents involved is team competition.

Bryant, can you imagine the public interest in a player draft to establish a thirty-two team golf league? Even if the top 100 or 200 golfers declined to participate, even if only the Champions Tour and the players were being divvied up?

You don’t have to start with multi-million dollar player contracts. There are scads of scratch golfers eager to play professionally.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story about the league. It began with this line: How would you like a professional team that will never ask for a new stadium? Makes sense. Maybe before we close all of those fine municipal golf courses, we ought to put up some grandstands and invite all the kids to come for free and cheer for the home team.

You have a voice. I don’t. I’m 85 and only shoot my age on rare occasions.


Thomas E. Brennan