In 1781, shortly after a devastating defeat at the hands of American forces in Saratoga, the British Army turned its attention south.
It was the fifth year of the American Revolution, and the Brits were beginning to feel the heat. After months of advances south from Canada, they had retreated from the New England colonies in a slow bleed of military bungles. Now, British commanders had rallied around a last-ditch effort to win back the war: siphoning off the American South by way of a blockade. The effort, they hoped, would win over Loyalist support in the South, fracturing the Colonies for good, as they threatened to bring fresh troops to the British side in massive numbers.
Back in golf’s tour wars, things feel like they’re reaching a similar tipping point. LIV Golf has broken through — entering the golf space as a legitimate competitor and winning over players in droves — but those gains haven’t come without a few key losses. The nascent league remains without many paying customers and is still in search of a television deal, key sponsors, and fans willing to pay full price for their tickets. Its players suffered an early legal defeat, and answers to the league’s existential questions in the form of courtroom battles aren’t expected for another year or more.
The PGA Tour, for its part, is hanging on for dear life. Golf’s establishment is scrambling to meet the moment presented by LIV, frantically shoring up its own line of defense. The Tour’s leadership structure, tournament schedule, and overall business model are all rumored to be on the chopping block as it moves to secure bigger payouts for its top players without harming their quality of life.
Enter Jason Gore, the former pro and USGA player relations aid who, the Tour announced Friday, will be Jay Monahan’s new player advisor. Gore is an extremely popular leadership figure in Tour circles (a rarity in an often insular sport), a trusted voice who has seen the sport through both the player and business lens. His new role would seem to put him in a translator role of sorts, bringing the good word of the players to the Commissioner’s office, and vice versa.
“There’s a certain thing — a certain brotherhood we’ve gotten with the PGA Tour,” Gore told Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio Monday. “I felt like I really wanted to help figure this out. I’m kinda gonna be the players’ voice to the commissioner.”
Though the job titles are similar, Gore’s role will be vastly different from the one he carried out the USGA. At the PGA Tour, it would seem his job is not to advocate for the Tour, but for its constituents.
“I was trying to spread the word about what we do and how we are and what we’re trying to do and what the future looks like, for the USGA to the players,” he said. “This is actually a completely opposite role.”
Rather, Gore says, his job will be the Tour’s blockade breaker — ensuring those who are considering a future away from the PGA Tour have their frustrations heard, and working with the Tour to fix the ones that can be improved.
“This is more of going up to a player and saying ‘tell me what you want,’ tell me what your ideas are to make this better,” Gore said. “Then me going back and talking to the Commissioner and trying out how to make these changes happen because we want to make the PGA Tour better and better to all players.”
Ultimately, the British blockade was unsuccessful. Poor planning resulted in a fragmented British advance, and Lord Charles Cornwallis was forced to abandon his plans and settle his troops in Yorktown. When the Americans arrived in Yorktown in the fall of 1781, they found a moribund British cavalry was missing the legions of Loyalist reinforcements it had promised to enlist. Three weeks later, Cornwallis surrendered, and the Americans had won the war.
Can the PGA Tour stave off the threat presented by LIV? How many players will the upstart league convince to break away from the Tour before that happens? How many can the Tour still save?
Jason Gore is sure to find out in the coming months. Whether he realizes it or not, he just enlisted.