In terms of sponsoring professional golf, MasterCard has gone from a putter to a driver.

The Purchase, N.Y.-based association has signed a long-term agreement with the PGA Tour to be a corporate sponsor and event sponsor on some of its tours.

This follows an agreement MasterCard made in May 1995 to sponsor the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Also last year, it signed Tom Watson, one of the sport's legendary players, as its official golf sponsorships spokesman.

All told, said Mava K. Heffler, MasterCard senior vice president, global promotions and sponsorships, MasterCard expects to invest $40 million in golf sponsorships over the next few years.

"This is a significant expansion of our presence and visibility and sponsorship of golf," Ms. Heffler said. "When we started embarking on a golf strategy, we envisioned it being nearly as significant as World Cup soccer."

By far MasterCard's largest sponsorship endeavor, the World Cup has garnered most of the association's money and attention since it first became a worldwide sponsor in 1991.

Only high-caliber companies are chosen as corporate partners, said John Morris, a spokesman for the PGA Tour, which is based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Sponsors include IBM Corp., AT&T, Coca-Cola, Buick, and, Nike.

A number of the companies elect for corporate and title sponsorships as MasterCard has done. For example, one longtime tour fixture is now the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am.

Ms. Heffler said MasterCard is attracted by the global nature of the sport and the number of participants and followers. "Golf seems to be attracting a younger audience," Mr. Morris pointed out. "It's not just old white men."

The National Golf Foundation estimates there are 24 million golfers in the United States - almost half of them between the ages of 18 and 39. The typical golfer is male (although 21% of participants are women), with a household income of $56,200.

The PGA Tour has 700 members. Up to 156 participate in the weekly tournaments on the main tour, 78 on the Senior Tour, and 100 to 150 on the Nike Tour. The latter is a "farm system" for the main tour.

The PGA Tour has relationships with eight network and cable television partners, which reach 100 countries. "For a corporate sponsor or a title sponsor looking to meet global marketing objectives, PGA Tour golf is a great way to do it," Mr. Morris said.

As part of its latest agreement with PGA Tour, MasterCard becomes title sponsor of what is now known as the Senior Tournament of Champions. Beginning in 1997, it will be known as the MasterCard Championship.

MasterCard also assumes sponsorship of the Senior Tour's Super Seniors competition for players 60 and older, which will now be known as MasterCard Grand Masters.

Also, MasterCard becomes the "official card" of the PGA Tour - the preferred method of payment at PGA Tour shops, Toutnament Players Clubs, and other locations.

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