Ken Weyand, the Florida-based The Grove XXIII Club Professional who competed in the Dubai Invitational under heavy public scrutiny as he finished 72 shots behind tournament winner Tommy Fleetwood, was afforded an invitation on the request of Michael Jordan, who was also supposed to appear as an amateur in the event according to BBC Sports commentator Andrew Cotter.
Speaking on The Chipping Forecast podcast that he hosts alongside golf correspondent Iain Carter and DP World Tour professional Eddie Pepperell, Cotter explained that Abdullah Al Naboodah, the tournament host, had asked Jordan to play in the event and it was a spiral from there that saw Weyand end up part of the 60-man professional field.
“It’s his tournament and he wanted Michael Jordan to play in it,” said Cotter. “Michael Jordan was going to play and said he would play if his club professional got to play as well. Michael Jordan eventually said that he’s not going to play, but the invitation to Ken Weyand, the club professional from Florida – 54-year-old chap – he did play and shot 53-over-par.”
Pepperell, whose ‘X’ post in the leadup to the tournament served to highlight Weyand’s presence, took the opportunity to clarify his stance on the matter, having been wrongly accused of being outraged by several media outlets.
“I’m not against sponsors’ invitations,” Pepperell said, “of course normally they happen in fields of 120 or 150 guys, so it’s much easier to digest even if somebody does shoot 53-over-par, and of course, as we’ve seen recently with the Lexi Thompson [who received an invitation to play the PGA Tour’s Shriners Children’s Hospital event] they bring in quite a lot of commercial value and I can totally understand it, but this was an invitational, it was a short-man field and a limited field event, and there were a lot of guys who kept their cards last year, like Matt Jordan who, I would say, deserved to be there ahead of Ken.”
It’s ironic that Matthew Jordan, who shares a first name initial and surname with the basketball legend who’d set the chain in motion, was the first alternate, but Pepperell feels that it does little for the Tour itself and reflects badly.
“It’s an embarrassment for the Tour frankly,” he went on to add, “that’s who I feel upset for, it’s the Tour because it reflects badly on them. Rather than us just talking about Tommy [Fleetwood] and Rory [McIlroy], which we should be doing, we’re talking about a guy that shot 53-over-par and that’s the issue here.”
They went on to applaud Weyand for refusing to withdraw despite the high numbers he was recording, but suggested that he should’ve issued a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to the invitation considering that he was clearly unable to compete on the DP World Tour stage.