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Golf Tidbits: Thorpe in trouble for not paying taxes

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The list of people that have been accused or found guilty of tax evasion or tax fraud is long and distinguished. Actors, musicians, sports figures, and activists dot the list of famous people that have been targeted for such misdeeds.

One of the most famous cases was Al Capone. He legendarily led the Chicago mafia, but was never convicted for any criminal activities related to the mob. He was finally taken down when he was convicted for tax evasion, however.

Sports figures such as Boris Becker and Don King have also been accused. Becker was found guilty, but never served jail time, while King was acquitted.

Maybe not as famous a figure as those mentioned above, Champions Tour golfer Jim Thorpe has been accused of not paying nearly $1.6 million in taxes over a three-year span covering 2002-04.

For his career, Thorpe has collected 13 wins on the Champions Tour and earned over $13 million since joining the tour in 1999.

In the timeframe during which he was accused of not paying his taxes, Thorpe earned over $4.7 million on the course and collected five victories, including his only championship title at the Countrywide Tradition in 2002. He also earned money from sponsors, and according to the federal charges, received at least $1.7 million in gambling winnings.

If that weren't enough, Thorpe is the lone officer of his own corporation, JLT, Inc. He failed to make estimated tax payments on the business, even though according to the complaint, he was told to do so by his accountant.

"We look forward to having a trial," Thorpe's attorney Mark Horwitz told the Tampa Tribune. "We don't think he's willfully violated the law. That's not to say he doesn't owe the tax, but we don't think he's guilty of a crime."

Horwitz also told the paper that the charges are the "the government's spin."

With those charges laid out, the 60-year-old Thorpe looks like he could be in trouble. Will he be tossed in jail if found guilty? That may not be likely, but Thorpe could need to fork over plenty of money to make things right with the government.

Past acts are not always allowed to be brought up in criminal court cases, and Thorpe has to be hoping that will be the case if he heads to trial for these charges. Though he was not criminally prosecuted, Thorpe was investigated by the IRS for not filing taxes from 1992-95.

The prosecutors could paint Thorpe as a repeat offender if his past transgressions are allowed to be heard as part of this new case. If that happens, Thorpe could be in bigger trouble than he can imagine.

Thorpe has faced many challenges in his career. After growing up as one of 12 children, he was able to attend Morgan State on a football scholarship. He later turned to golf, going pro in 1972 and eventually working in his way onto the PGA Tour, where he won three times in the 1980s.

The battles he fought early in his career may pale in comparison to these current challenges, but knowing how hard he fights, he has a chance to come through on the other side no worse the wear.

GOOD NEWS FOR THE LPGA

As the LPGA Tour loses sponsors and deals with the absence of one of the greatest players of all time, Annika Sorenstam, the big-wigs running the tour had been looking for some good news.

That news came on Wednesday, when the tour and the Golf Channel agreed to a 10-year deal making the network the tour's exclusive cable home starting in 2010.

With this deal, the LPGA becomes the only women's professional sports organization in the United States to receive a rights fee agreement for domestic broadcast coverage.

"We are excited to announce this historic partnership with the Golf Channel that will, for the first time, provide the LPGA with an exclusive cable partner," said LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens. "Our long-term goal has been to establish a consistent platform for LPGA viewership, improve the production quality of our telecasts and enhance the season-long promotion of our players and events. We were able to achieve this through our partnership with the Golf Channel."

The LPGA currently splits its cable coverage between the Golf Channel and ESPN, whose deal ends at the conclusion of this season. The specific number of events the Golf Channel will carry each year has not been set, but according to the release announcing the deal, nearly all LPGA events televised in the U.S. will be carried on the Golf Channel.

Like PGA Tour events that move to NBC or CBS for weekend coverage, the Golf Channel will air early-round coverage of LPGA events that move to another network for the weekend. The Golf Channel also continues as the exclusive home of the Solheim Cup.

Along with all of that, the Golf Channel will also pick up international feeds of LPGA global events.

GolfWorld is reporting the LPGA has also inked a new deal with J Golf of Korea. Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) had a 15-year relationship with the LPGA to broadcast events in Korea, and J Golf will replace SBS in that role. The difference in the two systems is that SBS is a network station, while J Golf is a cable channel. The new deal has not been officially announced by either party.

MINI-TIDBITS

- I spent five days at the Ginn Resort in Reunion, Florida last weekend. I was lucky enough to play lots of golf and let me tell you, it is a shame that Ginn has dropped its sponsorship of LPGA Tour and Champions Tour events. The three courses at the resort were beautiful and challenging. The resort itself was outstanding and I highly recommend it if you are looking for some quality golf and a winter vacation. For those with children, you can stay at this resort and still be within 20 minutes of Disney World.

- Congrats to Tiger Woods and wife Elin on their second child. Now Tiger, do us all a favor and get back on the course. I'd be half as wealthy as you if I had a quarter for every time someone asked me when you are returning.

- Michelle Wie, one of the top-five most talked about golfers, makes her debut as a member of the LPGA Tour this week at the SBS Open. She no longer has to live on sponsors' invites, as she earned her tour card at Q-School last fall. Now it is time for her to live up to her immense billing.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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