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Golfer goes online looking for money to sponsor his career

Updated:
CHICAGO (AP) _ Now eBay can say it has something for everyone _ including buyers who are willing to dole out thousands of dollars to help further the career of a golfer they've probably never heard of.

His name is Brian Payne and he has gone on eBay looking for someone to sponsor him as he pursues his dream of playing professional golf on the PGA tour.

Payne is seeking at least $10,000 _ the starting bid he set for the online auction _ to defray his expenses for the 2005 season. In return, he'll give up to half of whatever he wins on tournaments to the charity selected by whoever sponsors him and place the high bidder's corporate logo on either his golf bag or some piece of clothing, or both if the bid is at least $25,000. He'll also give 10 percent of the winning bid to two charities he's selected.

``I call it a win, win, win opportunity,'' said Payne, a suburban Chicago resident who is now in Orlando, Fla., practicing and playing in small tournaments. ``The winning bidder, myself and a couple of charities. Everybody's going to benefit.''

Payne, 31, isn't just some guy who doesn't like his job at the shoe store. He can play golf. An All Big Ten golfer while at Northwestern University, Payne has won some professional tournaments _ including the Illinois Open and a Canadian Tour tournament.

That's him holding a trophy from the 2002 Illinois Open on the eBay listing titled ``Golf Sponsorship: Sponsor a Tour Winning Pro Golfer.''

But the payday for winning the kind of tournaments he's been playing in for the past six years is at most about $20,000, a far cry from the checks for as much as $1 million going to winners of the PGA tournaments we've all seen on television.

Payne's biggest year was 2001 when he took home $62,000 _ not much when you consider Payne estimates that golfers shell out $40,000 to $60,000 per year just paying for everything from hotel rooms to golf balls as they travel from tournament to tournament.

Like many golfers in his position, he's had sponsors who have paid his expenses. But that ended after the 2003 season and since then he's been paying his own way with his winnings and the money his wife makes working at computer firm in Chicago.

So, as he has looked for ways to raise ``operating capital,'' he thought that perhaps eBay, where just about everything imaginable is for sale, could help him sell a piece of his career.

Elizabeth Payne, who also played collegiate golf at Northwestern, liked her husband's idea.

The company's response was, Why not? Along with the unusual products _ just recently Johnny Carson's boyhood Nebraska home was listed _ eBay has some experience with more human listings.

``We've had people try to sell minor league baseball teams and hockey teams,'' said eBay spokesman Hani Durzy. ``We had someone try to sell a weekend in Las Vegas with Dennis Rodman.''

Payne is aware of what people might think of someone asking others to pick up his dinner tabs so that he can devote himself to a game and ultimately crack a tour where he could become rich.

``The whole point of this for me ... is that I just felt like I could raise money in a way that would not only benefit myself but other causes far greater than golf,'' he said.

Even if no one bids _ as of Friday nobody had _ Payne said that maybe people will at least look at the listing and see two charities that are important to him, including one dedicated to raising money to battle a disease that killed the father of one of his best friends.

Payne believes he is poised for a big year, giving him momentum at the PGA Tour qualifying school the first week in December. If he does well enough in Canada, he said he won't have to take part in the first of the three stages of what is called Q-school, which would be a huge help in his quest to get his PGA card.

After suffering through physical problems like tendinitis in his left arm and wrist, he said he's completely healthy now for the first time in 18 months.

``Thirty-one is the beginning of a golfer's prime,'' he said. ``My best golf is ahead of me.''

Payne also gets inspiration from seeing golfers he once beat who now have their PGA cards and are playing with the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. ``I can compete with the guys out there,'' he said.

Then there's the story of Todd Hamilton, who qualified for his PGA card on his eighth try and won the British Open at the age of 38.

``I look at that and I think that's kind of cool,'' said Elizabeth Payne. ``That means there's always an opportunity.''
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