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I brought millions to the PGA Tour—but when a player was violent with me, the Tour turned its back.
Our latest Lioness story.
A Lioness story out today, by MaryAnn R. O’Neill, Founder and Managing Partner of Icon Sports Partners
When I reported domestic violence at the hands of a PGA Tour player, the Tour executives barely acknowledged the accusation. The player has since been formally charged in two states—but is still playing.
The PGA Tour has recently been in the hot seat for monopolistic practices, as it is attempting to block the competing LIV Golf Invitational from making inroads to professional golf. For me, the current scrutiny means it’s time to draw attention to another very serious problem within the Tour: its handling of domestic violence allegations.
I have worked in the professional golf world for twelve years. When I became an independent contractor with the PGA Tour in 2015, I was responsible for bringing in multi-year, multimillion dollar Corporate Title sponsorships. These sponsors would pay sizable sums for naming rights to Tournaments for the PGA Tour Champions. Of the five contractors employed, I was the only one to ever close a Title sponsorship. I also brokered the entire contract for security services across all five Tours operated by the PGA Tour’s event management company, Championship Management. I was one of the few women working directly with the Tour executives at this high level; very rarely was another woman in the room, especially at the decision-making level.
Around the same time my contract started, I began dating one of the players, Tom Pernice, Jr., and things became serious quickly. He flooded me with gifts and attention, insisting on constant communication when we were apart. Alongside this new relationship, my work with the Tour was also progressing. But the honeymoon there wore off as I began to observe practices toward women that seemed archaic, even medieval. For example, one former executive at the PGA Tour Champions said during several meetings—one of which I attended—that the girlfriends and wives of players were “their responsibility.”
At the tournament for which I’d brokered the sponsorship, I was wearing a clubhouse credential issued by the corporate sponsor. When I accidentally put one of my feet in an area of the clubhouse that my badge did not grant me access to, a player’s wife took a photo and sent it to the aforementioned PGA Tour executive. I was not there with my boyfriend—who wasn’t even in the clubhouse at the time—but as an invited guest of the sponsor! Nonetheless, rather than saying a word to me, the executive instead chastised Tom and fined him $2,500. I was not allowed to correspond with anyone at the Tour about the incident; however, I did email the executive's superior. He forwarded my email to Tom and cc'd the original executive I had contacted, incensed that I had dared to communicate directly with anyone, even though it was my minor error that had prompted the disciplinary action.
Tom later told me that in a meeting they’d had about the fine, the executive said that I was a “very beautiful woman” and should simply acknowledge that, and shouldn't try to find resolutions for anything. The implied meaning here was clear: that I should not attempt to be anything more than my boyfriend’s cheerleader on the sidelines, despite my having just brokered two multi-year, multimillion-dollar deals for the PGA Tour.
Tensions arose in my relationship with Tom, too.
(Read the rest of the story here…)
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