EXECUTIVES & ENTREPRENEURS

Icons Series Golf: Disruption & Star Power

Icons Series golf founder Tom Brookes talks this week’s 12-on-12 matchplay event featuring Michael Phelps, Michael Strahan, and Harry Kane.

Are you tired of the increasingly petty squabbling between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf? Do you just want to sit back and watch a fun 10-hole matchplay format over two days? If so, the Icons Series, a new golf competition due to host its inaugural event Thursday and Friday at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey and airing in the US on Peacock, might just be for you.

The series is the brainchild of Tom Brookes, a former agent with Interactive Studio Management (ISM). His team tested out different formats, venues, and concepts over the last several years before the project was derailed for two years by COVID-19 — but Brookes said that 72% of people that attended pilot events in Dubai and the UK had never been to a golf event before.

That was more than enough to know that they had a chance to do something special.

“It’s kind of a mixture of Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup,” he told Boardroom. “We’ve shortened it to a 10-hole format because we feel that golf, especially amateur golf, needs to be quicker and more compelling for younger audiences to get them interested and to grow the game amongst sports fans that maybe haven’t traditionally followed golf. They’re there to follow their athletes and to understand how their favorite athletes are outside of their normal comfort zone.”

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Let’s take a look at the two teams — captained by major champs Fred Couples and Ernie Els — who will kick off the competition on June 30 at Liberty National.

Icon Series Golf Teams

Fred Couples’ USA Team
  • Michael Phelps (10 handicap)
  • Michael Strahan (6)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (4)
  • JR Smith (4)
  • Andrew Whitworth (4)
  • Robbie Gould (5)
  • John Smoltz (+1.6)
  • Marshall Faulk (4)
  • Reggie Bush (6.8)
  • Golden Tate (3.2)
  • Michael Vick (7)
  • Ivan Rodriguez (4)
Ernie Els’ ROTW (Rest of the World) Team

The final two international spots are filled by former Premier League star and current Sky Sports commentator Alan Smith and Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings, part of a star-studded list that Brookes said aims to attract viewers from around the world. International audiences will be watching on Fox Sports in Australia or more than a dozen international broadcasters like TSN in Canada, SuperSport in South Africa, and Claro in Latin America.

Brookes quoted Els, a two-time winner of both the US Open and The Open Championship, as calling the upcoming Icons event a breath of fresh air compared to the moneyed intercontinental war that’s currently waging across the game of golf of late.

“It’s a much-needed feel-good product in what is currently a very divided, complex, quite bitter at times golf space at the moment,” Brookes added. “We are trying to create something that can entertain people, put smiles on people’s faces, and that they can really enjoy and something that’s unique that they’ve not seen before.”

Over the course of his career as an agent, Brookes said he’s amassed a network of 300 to 400 current and former top-level athletes who play golf, making it easier to find a couple dozen willing to play for charity. Players have the ability to donate proceeds to a charity of their choosing or the default Icons cause benefiting ALS research.

Rather than approach amateur exhibition golf events like “The Match,” in which two to four sporting superstars go head-to-head or in teams of two, Brookes opted for this 12-on-12 approach comprised of six teams of two squaring off against one another at Liberty National, which has a three-year deal to host the event in the US.

“We just feel that team matchplay golf is the most popular format across the world,” Brookes said. “We wanted to reach as many different sports fans as possible by bringing in different athletes that allows us to tell a narrative around them, create storylines, create great content, and have interest from different parts of the world and different generations of athletes.”

Having two days of 10-hole matchplay will mean events ending after two to three hours rather than four to five, more easily fitting in television windows should Icons Series grow in popularity over time. That also makes things more palatable to a casual golf fan, as well as younger audiences with more distractions and viewing options than ever before.

Icons Series | 2022 | Liberty National Golf Club | Koobit
Icons Series team captains Ernie Els (left) and Fred Couples (Image via Icons Series)

The overarching goal, Brookes said, is to bring this event internationally across Australia, Europe, and Asia with the same format for a global series played during different times of the year.

“The world’s gone through a pretty tough time over the last couple of years, and golf in particular’s going through a tough time now,” he said. “We are not that known yet, and I think like anything new, it takes time to get off the ground.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction from audiences, including the icons themselves after this event to see how that projects into next year’s rosters,” he added. “It will be interesting to see who’s keen to get involved and play next year when they see the quality of the product. I just think we need to bring some life and energy and fresh air into the sport.”

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