Shawn Spieth dearly wanted to be in Scotland, watching his son Jordan try to win a second consecutive British Open. He stayed at home in Dallas, though, because he and a partner are launching a business that ranks pro athletes not by how much they have won but by how popular and marketable social media makes them.
“Our objective is to be the currency of social media in sports and entertainment. That essentially means we become the social version of Nielsen,” he said, referring to the company famous for measuring television ratings. His new firm, MVPIndex, monitors how athletes are doing on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms and translates that data into rankings on the person’s up-to-the-minute value to sponsors and agencies.
The findings are designed to be interesting also for fans: Who is No. 1 in golf? Heading into this week, MVPIndex ranked Rory McIlroy first, followed by Tiger Woods, then the younger Spieth. Who knows how that might change after the Claret Jug is awarded Sunday afternoon? Spieth entered the final round tied for the lead.
His father said the ratings are extremely fluid, which is why he thinks they will be helpful. For instance, Rickie Fowler recently dropped out of the top 10, probably because he has been so busy preparing for the U.S. and British Opens he has not been as active as usual on Instagram. “We rank and score and index every conversation that we track daily, sometimes multiple times a day,” Shawn said, adding that he and partner Kyle Nelson had been in the mobile video business before they decided to get into the sports/social media realm.
“With sports being very traditional, we knew it would take a while. Paradigm shift is never easy, but that’s OK,” he said on the phone. “We know there are challenges, which is why I’m here and not in Carnoustie.”
Farmingdale’s Brey earns first pro check
Ever since he picked up a golf club and realized he could hit a ball quite well with it, Kyle Brey, 22, of Farmingdale wanted to be a pro. Without any fanfare, and just by making a phone call, he did that this past week. On the eve of the New York State Open, he declared himself a professional. Two days later, after a second-place finish at Bethpage Black, he had earned his first $11,000.
“It was definitely different,” he said. “I did the U.S. Amateur [qualifying] a couple of weeks ago and I just missed out, so I thought why not do it at the State Open?”
Many golf fans might not realize how simple the process is. All a golfer has to do is declare himself or herself a pro and they are eligible for professional competition and compensation. It is unlike being certified as a Class A club pro with the PGA of America, a process that involves taking courses, passing a written test and shooting a target score or better in a specified tournament.
The difficulty in being a full-time professional player rather than a teacher, of course, is in gaining enough in winnings to make a living. “My short game is really good,” Brey said. “I think if I can hit it a little better off the tee, I can compete at a high level.”
He intends to move to Florida this winter with his lifelong friend Matt Lowe, who also will turn pro after trying to qualify one last time for the U.S. Amateur.
Curry coach McKillop at tourney
Davidson basketball coach Bob McKillop, who helped turn the lightly recruited Stephen Curry into a superstar, will be the honored guest at the CYO of Long Island’s Golf Classic at Hempstead Country Club on Sept. 17. Information is available at 501auctions.com/cyogolf2018.
McKillop played in the CYO before he played at Hofstra then became a coach at Holy Trinity and Long Island Lutheran. Curry often credits McKillop for his development — as a basketball player, not the Web.com Tour-caliber golfer he has become.