John Tyson is exploring the idea of offering his Northwest Arkansas golf course as a venue for a LIV Golf tournament.
The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal has learned that Greg Norman, a two-time major champion and CEO of the highly lucrative upstart golf league, traveled to Northwest Arkansas in early September to visit with Tyson at Blessings Golf Club.
Tyson, chairman of Springdale-based meat giant Tyson Foods Inc., owns Blessings, which opened 18 years ago near Fayetteville.
In a statement to the Business Journal, Tyson confirmed Norman’s visit to Blessings. He said he’s been friends with Norman for more than 20 years and their conversation was part of Tyson’s “ongoing research” of showcasing Blessings to the best golfers in the world.
“I have always supported amateur and collegiate golfers, as shown by the upcoming Blessings Collegiate Invitational tournament next month,” Tyson said. “For several years, I have also been exploring ways to bring the world’s best men’s golfers to our area. I’ve talked to the USGA, the PGA and others to try and find a way to showcase the men as the LPGA tournament at Pinnacle [Country Club] in Rogers this week does for the world’s best female golfers.
“As a part of that ongoing research, Greg Norman came to see me to have a conversation about my desire to do this at some point in the future.”
The third annual Blessings Collegiate Invitational presented by Tyson Foods is scheduled for Oct. 3-5. It features 11 top men’s and women’s college teams from across the country, and Golf Channel will have live coverage for three hours each day.
Blessings also received national exposure on Golf Channel in 2019 when it hosted the NCAA Division I Men’s & Women’s Golf Championships. Blessings is also home to the University of Arkansas men’s and women’s golf teams.
LIV is amid its inaugural season with eight events that make up the LIV Golf Invitational Series. The schedule has seven regular events and a season-closing team championship, which is scheduled to be played at Trump National Doral Miami from Oct. 27-30 with a $50 million purse.
In 2023, the Invitational Series will become the LIV Golf League with an expanded schedule. Sports Illustrated reported Sept. 5 that a tentative schedule is still fluid but could include as many as nine events in the U.S. LIV has not confirmed the details.
The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund is backing LIV Golf, which critics say is “sportswashing” by a nation that has been criticized for its human rights record. Norman said LIV is meant to grow the game globally.
Several high-profile PGA Tour players have defected to the upstart golf league, enticed by several hundred million dollars in signing bonuses the circuit offers.
LIV counts 12 major winners among its players, including Cam Smith, ranked second in the world, Dustin Johson, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson. Tournaments offer $25 million purses in no-cut 54-hole tournaments.
“LIV” refers to the Roman numerals 54, the score if each hole on a par-72 course is birdied, and the number of holes played in a LIV tournament.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating potential antitrust violations by the PGA Tour, which has suspended players lured away by the staggering sums of money offered by LIV. According to the Associated Press, some players have also sued the PGA Tour over their suspensions in a federal antitrust suit.
Norman is a retired pro golfer ranked No. 1 worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1993, he founded the Greg Norman Company, a multinational company with diverse business interests, including apparel, hospitality, golf course design and real estate development.
Norman’s career also includes a stop in Northwest Arkansas. When it opened in 1990, Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers — then known as Champions Golf & Country Club — staged a special event called The Greg Norman Challenge. CBS broadcast the event, featuring athletic stars Larry Bird (NBA), Wayne Gretzky (NHL) and Ivan Lendl (WTA) in a best-ball format against Norman.