The title sponsor of the Kemper Open announced yesterday it will increase next year's tournament purse to $3 million and is instituting a program by which the Kemper champion would display the Kemper logo on his clothes and golf bag.
The purse increase is 20 percent more than the $2.5 million paid in this year's tournament and 50 percent from the $2 million paid in 1997. The winner's share will increase from $450,000 to $540,000.
The increase is in line with the average expected purses for PGA Tour events in 2000, according to a tour spokesman.
"By next year most purses across the board will be around $3 million and there will be a few at $5 million," the spokesman said. "The average PGA Tour purse will be $3 million."
In announcing the Kemper Champions program, David B. Mathis, chairman of the board of Kemper Insurance Co., said the company will give the Kemper Open champion the opportunity to sign a one-year contract to display the company's logo. If the Kemper champion wins one of the four majors -- The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship -- he will receive a $200,000 bonus.
The Kemper Champions program will begin immediately, giving champion Rich Beem the opportunity to add to the value of his purse. According to tournament chairman Ben Brundred, the average contract for a golfer to wear a particular corporate logo on a hat is worth $100,000.
"It seems to be making a formal agreement out of a situation that has been around the PGA Tour for a couple of years," said John Mascatello, president and CEO of Marquee Cambridge Golf, which represents Scott Hoch and John Daly, among others on the PGA Tour.
"It would not be in Kemper's interest to persuade a player to drop a hat or clothes sponsor and replace them with Kemper. But it makes perfect sense for Kemper to try to develop a relationship with the winner of their event and add them in some way -- unless you run into a situation where the player is already sponsored by a competitor."
Last Year's Heroes
The winners of last year's majors -- Mark O'Meara, Lee Janzen and Vijay Singh -- never appeared on the leader board at the 1999 Kemper Open.
Singh finished the best of the three with a 3-under 281.
"I played okay, but made too many mistakes," Singh said. "If it weren't for those mistakes, I would have been in contention. I just had too many loose shots."
Janzen, who finished at 1 over, said he is on course in his plan to defend his U.S. Open championship, June 17-20 in Pinehurst, N.C.
"I'm frustrated, but not disappointed, Janzen said. "I'm pretty encouraged about my game right now. I've worked on my putting for three weeks and it's slowly improving. And my set up and aim on the other clubs is good right now. I just want to settle the fundamentals before the Open and be ready to play.
O'Meara finished at 1 under, but was not completely happy with his effort.
"I'm playing better, but the game is not where I want it to be," said the 1998 Masters and British Open champion. "My confidence is a little low and I missed too many birdie putts."
The total attendance for the week was announced at 180,000 (155,000 from Thursday through Sunday), 24,000 less than last year's record 204,000. "It's about what I expected with the switch to Memorial Day weekend," Brundred said. . . . The 1999 Kemper Open generated almost $700,000 in charitable contributions this year, up from $500,000 in 1998. The money is raised for 47 local and 18 national charities chosen by tournament volunteers.