Teachers, PGA Tour players, former NCAA university stars and recently-turned professionals; Senior PGA Tour and Web.com players, Mini-Putt/Putt-Putt touring pros, career poker players and a cast of characters from parts unknown descended upon Las Vegas during the end of October and early November 2017 for what can only be coined as “The Greatest Putting Competition On Earth.” Otherwise known as the Major Series Of Putting, and better known as the MSOP, this was a competition, the likes of which have never seen before.
The competition included a full-blown stadium with 360-degree spotlights for evening use, a huge electronic scoreboard with live scoring, a full-service modern clubhouse, but most importantly, a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole artificial turf putting green found within, which was truly the other star of the show, other than the competitors.
So, just what is the Major Series Of Putting? The MSOP is the brainchild of Mr. Guillaume Beland of Montreal, who paired up with none other than Cirque Du Soleil founder Mr. Guy Laliberte. Laliberte was looking to embark upon a golf project for his One Drop Charity, an organization whose mission is to provide water in a sustainable fashion to those who need it most around the world, to improve living conditions and offer the ability for communities to care for themselves.
Beland, who had previously been involved in the development and promotion of a tournament for the Senior PGA Tour, knew exactly the route he would take from the get-go. “If you’re going to do it, do it right and go big,” says Beland. Many years prior, Guillaume was invited for a round at Oakmont in Pennsylvania. Rather disgruntled after his round as many are upon exiting the 18th green on one of the sternest tests in the world, he was invited out to the putting green amongst other members for an 18-hole putting contest. This is somewhat of a tradition amongst the membership, and as Guillaume explained, it completely washed away the sting of his less-than-lackluster round, what with the intense yet friendly atmosphere of the competition. With this experience etched in his mind forever, a brainchild was born, and the MSOP came to fruition.
The MSOP allowed plenty of opportunity to qualify throughout the summer and fall in local qualifying rounds to grab a spot in one of many events. If one didn’t qualify, they could enter directly by paying the entry fees, referred to as “buy-ins,” much like in the World Series Of Poker. However, they did not come cheap. Most entry fees were $1,000, but there was also the $250/36-hole mini-turbo events for those who wanted to try their luck without spending the big bucks. The $5,000/six-round/two-day stroke play event was only outdone by the high rollers, where the buy-in was $11,111. The fees may sound like a lot of money; however, if you had a good flat stick in your hands, recouping your entry fee and then some was feasible. Most events paid out the top 15 finishers, and cracking the top four or five could become lucrative. Yours truly, who had qualified for almost every event, picked up over $4,000 in the first Turbo Single tournament on day one with a fourth-place finish. Not too shabby, but I had to make sure I made the cut after 54 holes.
Being the first year for the Major Series Of Putting, there were many who perhaps were unaware this impressive and glamourous competition existed at all. A testament to this was former UNLV standout and recently-turned professional Taylor Montgomery, who not only qualified onsite in the Vegas Stadium for the Stroke Play Championship, but went on to win the 108-hole event two days later to pick up a cool $75,000 and get his professional career kick-started in a big way. Not to be outdone, Rainey “Rainman” Statum, who lost his house in Hurricane Harvey and was laying tile 48 hours prior to the commencement of activities in Vegas, had no knowledge the MSOP was even taking place. Statum, a professional Putt-Putt player on the side and a darn good one, was down a little on his luck when some of his “putting” friends told him about the MSOP. His friend, whom Statum was helping rebuild his home, helped pay his way to Vegas and to the first tournament, where he cashed a check. The rest, as one would say, is history, as Statum putted his way to more checks throughout the week and garnered the respect of ambassador and PGA Tour pro Brad Faxon. During the all-pro event, in which 36 holes of medal play was required to qualify for the 16-man match play field, Statum blew away all competitors, including the likes of Faxon, Colt Knost, Tommy Armour III and John Cook with a -14 total. Faxon was -6 and took notice.
As ambassador, Faxon enlightened everyone by stating how nervous he felt and went on to explain how everyone was on an even playing ground. His comments helped all competitors realize that this was serious business, but at the same time an opportunity to be the best. Not everyone can play professional golf at the highest level. However, the MSOP proved an invaluable lesson to not only everyone present, but to the golfing world. Putting may not be golf, but it certainly is a gateway into the game for the uninitiated and gives the experienced lover of the game a spark to keep going and never quit. Both can only be great for the popularity of game!
Add a little glitz, glamour and let-your-hair-down entertainment, and the MSOP delivered while portraying golf as a pretty darn cool activity. Vegas ain’t bad, either.
For more information about the Major Series of Putting. please visit their website at msop.com
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