Betting on a Hole in One in the Virtual World By PAUL SULLIVAN

BILL STRAYTON has his wife to thank for losing $10,000 in a Las Vegas golf tournament. Last year she pushed him to enter the World Series of Golf. But no one had to prod him to pony up another $10,000 this year. “It’s like an addiction,” said Mr. Strayton, 64, a retired manufacturer from Mount Airy, Md. “It’s really thrilling. I’ve taken all the risks you can in business, and this one makes no sense.”

Maxine Hicks for The New York Times

Mr. Leiweke’s goal is ambitious — turning a high-stakes golf tournament into the next hot Web property.

World Series of Golf, Inc.

A design mock-up of the online golf game being developed by Terry Leiweke.

Mr. Strayton is an average golfer who is enthralled by a new type of golf tournament, one that combines the betting of poker with the pressure shots of golf. After breaking even the second time he played in the World Series, he is gearing up for his third trip next spring.

This type of interest was what Terry Leiweke, the chief executive of the World Series, had envisioned — a buzz-generating tournament that grew steadily each year. With that in hand, he now wants to expand into the virtual world.

“Online games are the darlings,” he said. “There are 100 million online game players. Capture 1 percent of that, then the multiples are astounding.”

Mr. Leiweke’s goal is ambitious — turning a high-stakes golf tournament into the next hot Web property — and on the surface he seems an unlikely choice for that task. For one thing, he does not use a computer, so he cannot research video games online. For another, he is not a gambler, though he does play golf. His strength, he said, is picking strong partners and marketing a good idea into a profitable one.

Then, in 2005, the World Series of Golf landed in his lap. When he was approached with the idea by two businessmen, he had a hunch that a poker-style golf tournament could be a winner. So, he secured a trademark for the name (the Professional Golfers Association had owned it but let it lapse) — and tested the concept on gamblers, not golfers, because, he said, “we needed casino types to tweak the format.”

The resulting game is straightforward: 125 amateur golfers put up $10,000 each and compete for a $250,000 prize. The format combines the betting of Texas Hold ’Em poker with golf’s hole-by-hole match play, and it uses a bracket structure similar to a college basketball tournament to weed out the players over three days. Five survive to play for the grand prize.See full story


2 comments so far

  1. Yonny on
  2. Pett on

    Not sure that this is true:), but thanks for a post.

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