Stephen Curry is playing in a Web.com Tour event, but does he deserve to?

Let’s say you operate a tournament on the Web.com Tour, the developmental circuit one notch below the PGA Tour. You need to drum up some interest in your tournament. Let’s say a notable local celebrity—make that the notable local celebrity—is a decent golfer. You’ve got the right to invite anyone on earth to play in your tournament, so what do you do? Exactly.

Stephen Curry is an amateur golfer with a 2.0 handicap, which is impressive but not unique. Steph Curry is also the two-time MVP of the world champion Golden State Warriors, which is beyond impressive. And the latter reason is why Curry will be teeing it up at the Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward, California, on a sponsor’s exemption. The tournament, slated for Aug. 3-6, takes place about 10 miles from Oracle Arena, and with Curry in attendance, the tournament’s organizers can expect a huge leap in ticket sales.

What they can also expect is a healthy dose of grumbling from those annoyed that Curry’s celebrity, not his game, basically allowed him to parachute into the tournament ahead of other deserving players. Curry, the thinking goes, hasn’t paid his dues, hasn’t ground it out on Tour, trying to qualify for tournaments and cobble together enough money for hotel rooms and dinner.


Here’s the problem with that theory: first, Curry isn’t “taking a spot” from some grinding no-name golfer. More importantly, golf needs to do anything it can to promote itself to a new audience; Tiger’s gone and he ain’t coming back. If even one kid sees Steph playing golf and decides to start swinging a club as well as shoot three-pointers from outside the gym, this weekend will be a success.

“Leave golf to the hardworking pros” is a noble, grassroots sentiment, but the truth is that Curry is doing what big-name golfers have done for years: injecting much-needed star power into an event that otherwise would go all but unnoticed. It’s akin to the “one-in-four” rules that both the PGA and LPGA tours have requiring every golfer to hit new tournaments on a regular basis, bringing big names into smaller or unfamiliar locations at least once every four years. Curry is no stranger to professional golf, having played in pro-ams on the PGA Tour on several occasions, so it’s not like he’d embarrass the tournament out there.

[Fantasy Football is open! Sign up now]

Embarrassing himself, though, is a different question. Curry shoots in the low 70s, which is decent enough, but his handicap is still a good eight to 12 strokes worse than most pros. And that’s on courses not set up for tournament play. Curry’s likely to get obliterated and bounced from the tournament in the first two days, but that’s not the point; raising a little attention, and charitable funding for the Warriors Community Foundation, is. (Plus, seeing one of the country’s best athletes get humbled on a golf course might be a little helpful for golf fans in the golfers-aren’t-athletes argument.)

For his part, Curry appears to be approaching this with the proper level of respect:



Curry doesn’t exactly have much history as a guide; former 49er and fellow Bay Area legend Jerry Rice played the Ellie Mae Classic three times and finished dead last, second-to-last and withdrew. Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz attempted a Web.com tour event and shot a first-round 84.

“When I found out I was getting a sponsor exemption, I had a lot of emotions because I love to play golf; it’s a passion of mine,” Curry said in a statement. “But to be able to play against the next and best golf professionals will be a huge honor and huge treat.”

And there’s almost no chance LeBron will swat one of his shots out of the air, either.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.