By DAVID DROSCHAK
In a generation when star golfers like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson make more money off the course than on the green grass, Ryan Moore chose an interesting corporate path in 2009 – to say the least.
No telling how much cash Moore left on the table when he accepted his first PGA Tour victory trophy at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro without any endorsement contracts in place.
On the most glorious day of his professional career, playing with Pacific Northwest golfing idol Fred Couples, charging back on national TV with eight birdies to force a dramatic playoff and then ensuing victory, Moore donned a beard, a gray “painters hat,” navy blue shirt, along with gray-and-blue striped pants – all without logos – while playing a set of clubs he used during his All-American college days at UNLV.
It’s not as if Moore, one of the rising stars on Tour with a refreshing personality to match, didn’t have any offers. He had plenty of attractive endorsement deals placed in front of him, including an extension of his PING contract that expired at the end of the 2008 season.
But when it came time to sign on the dotted line, the 27-year-old Moore, in an unusual and what some would call radical decision, became an “endorsement holdout.”
“Last year, I was ready for something new, something fresh and was just ready to go play golf and not worry about the stuff off the golf course so much,” Moore said. “It’s funny how things have gotten out about me; that I don’t like sponsorships because I never said anything like that.”
For Moore’s first three plus years on Tour, he had contracts with PING and Oakley sunglasses.
“It wasn’t like there weren’t any offers, Moore added. “I had quite a few offers, but I didn’t feel comfortable with them and I wanted to use the clubs I wanted to use. I didn’t want to be stuck using something that I didn’t feel was going to make me play better. I even got more offers when I started (2009) with nothing. That got even more attention and more intrigue and more offers started coming in then. That’s kind of how it works.
“I’m not advocating that it’s the right way for everybody to do, or that’s how golf should be, but it was the right decision for me – and it was a hard decision. I just wasn’t going to sign contracts that I really wasn’t happy or excited to sign.”
Wyndham Championship tournament director Mark Brazil has known Moore since he was 15, dating back to the days when Brazil was involved with the AJGA and Moore was a teenage star. It was Brazil who gave Moore his first Tour exemption in 2004 when Moore was blazing a scorching amateur victory march that summer.
“It was quite an understatement to say he was the best amateur in the world,” Brazil said. “I remember going to the 18th green to thank him for coming to play in Greensboro and he was just ecstatic to play in a PGA Tour event. And he says, ‘I could have won this thing had I putted.’”
Moore, a rising senior at UNLV at the time, probably could have, considering he was tied for 12th after 36 holes and ended up tied for 24th at 7-under-par.
“He’s not arrogant or cocky, but he has this confidence,” Brazil said. “Then he came back the next year in 2005 and he did something that hardly anybody ever does and played his way to a PGA Tour card on sponsor exemptions.”
It was fitting Moore captured his first PGA Tour event in Greensboro, a place where he first made an impression in the pro ranks and where he and Brazil celebrated Moore cracking the $1 million barrier at a Forest Oaks family sponsor home in October 2005.
“The kid is obviously really talented,” Brazil said. “I get shocked when an event goes by and he doesn’t win. I think he is going to pick up some more wins and start contending in majors.
“I will always do what I can to take care of him. He’s such a neat guy that I respect so much.”
When Moore returns to defend his Wyndham Championship title Aug. 16-22 he’ll hit the practice range a new man – but still a bit unorthodox.
Moore has signed a contract with Scratch Golf, a company founded in 2003 which designs clubs from “scratch” or can replicate older clubs no longer being manufactured. Moore also recently signed a deal with revolutionary shoe manufacturer TRUE Linkswear.
Moore not only has endorsement contracts with each upstart company, he’s also part equity owner in the firms.
“These aren’t traditional contracts,” Moore said. “I certainly have interest in how well each company does, and I think that’s a great way for me to personally do it. It’s fun to be involved in a little bit more than just wearing a logo.”
Moore’s partnership with Scratch Golf even has a story behind the story. He vowed not fiddle with his hodge-podge of veteran stand-by clubs he started the 2009 season with, even though a set of Scratch Golf clubs were close at hand.
“I had gotten a set of Scratch irons early in the year because they saw I was without contracts, and they were a small company and don’t have guys out there playing, so they thought it was an opportunity to maybe get some stuff in my bag,” Moore said. “It was torture to me not to go hit them and play them because I could just tell I was going to like them. I kept coming home after events and I had a break and I would just look at them in the garage and say, ‘Awe, I want to play them so bad but I wouldn’t love myself.’”
Moore did relent late last season and performed brilliantly en route to a season in which he earned $2.2 million and finished with a scoring average of 70.46.
“It made it a pretty easy decision,” Moore said of his switch to Scratch Golf.
While Moore is the only PGA Tour player with a Scratch Golf contract, Cristie Kerr, the No. 1 ranked female player in the world, uses Scratch wedges.
Down the road, Moore said he may even help design a club or two for the company.
“I own part of the company so I’m probably going to want to keep playing the stuff since I love it,” he said. “There is no motivation to be switching clubs.
“I like that they are made for me, everything about them. That’s the fun thing about their custom department – it’s for everybody. It’s not just for Tour players. It’s not like I can get something done special that you can’t just go and get done.”
After a few seasons with a nagging wrist injury that hindered his performance, Moore is 100 percent healthy and is confident he can contend for more wins.
“I feel like I’m moving forward and I’m in a great place right now,” Moore said. “Winning at the Wyndham was all such a blur because I had to go to another tournament that next week, and I didn’t get to sit around and enjoy it and soak it in. It was a great moment and a great feeling. I feel it helped shape a few of the things I have going right now.”
A deal well done Ryan.