Golf is largely an individual game, but staging a successful tournament calls for a full team effort.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little parental advice to achieve success. Rocky Brooks, Head Golf Professional at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., which is home to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, says that when he’s gearing up for all that hosting a tournament involves, he simply remembers a phrase—”the five P’s”—that his father, a 22-year U.S. Air Force veteran, repeated to him often.
SUMMING IT UP
• Effective communication between all department heads, property personnel and tournament representatives is essential to holding a successful event.
“Prior planning prevents poor performance,” Brooks reveals. “Every time I get ready for an event, I hear my dad chirping about that.”
And while golfing excellence, for the most part, is an individual pursuit, Brooks knows that staging a successful tournament is anything but a solitary endeavor. Personnel in every department at a property must work together to make their jobs seem effortless, he stresses. “You can put it in one word: communication,” he says.
At Sedgefield, Brooks and Golf Course Superintendent Keith Wood work closely together to oversee events. “It definitely takes a lot of coordination to make it all work,” Wood agrees.
The Sedgefield team prepares for about one event per month, with all outings planned around the weather and agronomic considerations, such as how long it takes the turf to heal after aerification.
|Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas hosts about 120 tournaments a year. With everything from a member-guest to charity events and corporate outings, the staff makes sure every player is treated like a member.|
“After you get a team together and they do two or three of these things, they basically take care of themselves,” notes Wood.
While Brooks serves as the middle man between the golf course and food and beverage staffs, “I make sure that the playing conditions are the best possible at that time,” the superintendent adds.
The Sedgefield team has become so adept at tournament preparation and execution, in fact, that the club has become known for a regular series of special themed events (“Theme Teams,” C&RB, April 2009).
Plenty to Do Behind the Scenes
And no doubt, Sedgefield’s proven track record with its own tournaments helped it bring back the Wyndham Championship, which it hosted last year for the first time in 31 years.
Rain or Shine, the Game Must Go On
Rain is the bane of any tournament or golf event. And while hosting the 2009 U.S. Open last month on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y., Superintendent Craig Currier and his crew of 60 staffers and 110 volunteers had to handle enormous amounts of rain that threatened to permanently sink Long Island.
To prepare for the return of the Championship, Sedgefield’s 1924 Donald Ross layout underwent major renovations to the greens, tees, bunkers and fairway grass. The improvements not only made it possible to hold a PGA Tour event again, Wood notes, they’ve also helped the club stay competitive in an increasingly demanding marketplace.
“Our members reap the benefits,” he says. “They get to play on PGA Tour-quality conditions.”
Wood even enjoyed a few perks of his own, with an additional $150,000 in his budget to prepare for the tournament and an opportunity to network with fellow superintendents who helped out at the event.
While the Sedgefield staff does not have to run the Wyndham, it still has to tend to countless tasks to ensure that the tournament plays out smoothly. And no detail is too small.
“We have to take care of the driving range, the balls for each player, shipping and receiving of 80 to 100 packages per day, and the merchandise tent,” Brooks reports. “We have to check in and tag all the items and make sure they’re displayed properly.”
The players’ locker room attendants must make sure they have ample supplies of polish and spikes on hand, and keep the players’ lounge stocked. Golf cars must be available for rules officials, notes Brooks, and the staff has to coordinate off-site parking and wardrobes for its personnel.
“If you do your jobs, there aren’t any surprises,” he adds.
Sedgefield’s members embraced the return of the event. “It gives members a sense of pride that they belong to a club that hosts a PGA Tour event,” Wood says. “To me, it’s free marketing for the club. As a nonprofit organization, we have rules that we need to go by to market the club. We picked up some members because we hosted the tournament. Today, clubs have to be competitive. Every member makes a big difference.”
Sedgefield benefited from positive feedback from PGA Tour players and fans, Brooks adds, as well as favorable media coverage about the Wyndham’s new home at the property.
“I don’t know that anybody could ever put a dollar amount on how great that exposure was for the club,” he says.
And now, Wood expects the good feelings to extend to the club’s other tournaments as well. “We want to treat [our] member-guest just like the PGA Tour event,” he reports.
It’s important to take that approach, Brooks feels, because he’s seen evidence that all events, large and small, can help to attract new members to a facility. “People see other people enjoying themselves, and they want to be a part of it—whether it’s a Tour event or a [local] tournament,” he says.
Keeping All Houses in Order
While interdepartmental coordination and cooperation is a key to executing a successful tournament, it’s also important for each area to know, and handle, its own specific duties and responsibilities.
Jekyll Island (Ga.) Golf Club holds about eight large tournaments a year, including the Georgia High School Association boys’ and girls’ championships for 5A schools, a U.S. Kids Golf Jekyll Island Cup Regional Championship, and the Georgia-Florida Classic, an annual two-day prelude to the Georgia-Florida football game. Golfers (and football fans) from all over the country participate in the four-man scramble, reports Harry Kicklighter, Director of Golf, and the property handles all of the preparations in-house for this tournament, in which 95 percent of the golfers are amateurs.
To pull all of this off seamlessly, it’s important for members of each department to handle their parts of the job as just more of the same, Kicklighter says. The maintenance crew mows the course and sets the schedule; the food and beverage staff takes care of dining arrangements; the golf shop staff handles the tournament preparations; and the marketing department secures sponsorships.
“We’ve been doing each one of these [tournaments] so long, everyone knows what to do,” he reports.
Keeping the club’s four golf courses (three 18-hole and one 9-hole) in top condition also plays a vital role in tournament preparations. “We don’t want to have to make any big, drastic changes to make an event nice,” notes Kicklighter. “We have a lot of paying customers in between tournaments.”
Jekyll Island starts planning for the February U.S. Kids tournament in the previous November, and the staff begins preparations for the next Georgia-Florida Classic as soon as the tournament ends. For other events, the staff starts tweaking preparations about four or five months in advance.
Of course, extended families can help out at tournament time as well. On Jekyll Island, for instance, preparations are not left to the resort property alone. The Jekyll Island Convention Center helps with food arrangements for tournaments, and the property also coordinates with island hotels to prepare for upcoming events. “Even the businesses on the island make sure everybody is aware of what’s going on,” adds Kicklighter.
Jekyll Island GC also relies on a large volunteer pool made up of island residents. A new committee has been set up to seek out sponsorships, Kicklighter reports, and tournament starters, as well as the golf car staff, consist entirely of volunteers. “We try to get them involved as much as possible,” he says.
The larger events in particular, Kicklighter notes, have helped to raise the profile of Jekyll Island GC. “It keeps our name out there, and hopefully, that also turns out to be good advertising for the island,” he says. And, because Jekyll Island is a family-friendly destination, golf events can also help to attract a customer base for the future, he notes.
Acting Like They’ve Been There
Along with communication, says Ross McCullough, Director of Golf at Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas, experience is a big factor in the success of an event. “Everybody who works for me knows that I’ve done their job at some point,” he says. “I’ll even get out there and do it with them.”
The staff at Silverstone, which played host to the 2008 National Collegiate Golf Championship in November, stays busy. From member tournaments to charity events to corporate outings, the property holds about 120 tournaments a year.
“Everybody is treated like a member when they come out here,” says McCullough. “We want everyone to have the best experience they can have.”
He works closely with Director of Sales Matt Utter and Tournament Coordinator Mark Federoff to ensure that Silverstone’s events run smoothly. The team leaders have regular meetings, particularly for large corporate outings, that also include the food and beverage coordinators, golf shop personnel, maintenance staff and outside service providers.
About a week or two before an event, adds McCullough, all department heads meet to go over player counts, golf car arrangements and banquet needs.
McCullough’s role is to “essentially oversee all things golf”—from making sure the staff is dressed professionally to ensuring that the golf shop is prepared and staffed appropriately. One of the most important aspects of tournament coordination, he notes, is to make sure that groups tee off on time; otherwise, outside play by additional golfers gets thrown off schedule.
Silverstone plans to keep its membership at its current rate of 200, because that is a number the property can handle comfortably. Still, McCullough finds the exposure that a special event can bring to be extremely beneficial. “It gets our facility out to people who may not otherwise come and play us,” he says.
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