2000: Tourney groups bridge needs of tours, events
Tournaments, players, sponsors and charities all have varying needs, objectives and challenges. Luckily, they can all turn to one group for the answers – the tours’ tournament or sponsor associations.
If these associations had a slogan it might be: “Your one-stop, cure-all solution store – open 24 hours a day.”
The PGA Tour Tournament Association, founded in 1969, has been a liaison between the Tour and individual events. It’s a delicate balancing act, admits executive director Barry Palm, but one that’s been very successful, to the tune of $45 million in 1999 and $50 million in 2000.
“The bottom line for any tournament is to raise money for charities, that’s what we are all about,” said Palm. “We raised $50 million this year for charities. Sure, things come up during an event that have to be taken care of. Sure, there are both long-term and short-term concerns of both the tournaments and the PGA Tour. That’s what we’re here for. And the charities win in the end.”
From how to set up tents to how to attract corporate sponsors, these associations are golf tournaments’ problem-solvers.
“We support and enhance the achievement of tournament sponsor goals,” said Stephanie Hall, executive director of the LPGA Tour-nament Sponsors Associa-tion, “parti-cularly issues of charitable giving, corporate entertainment, product or service marketing, tournament operations and overall community enhancement.
“We do this by providing a voice for the tournament sponsors as a group. We also act as a liaison to the LPGA administrational staff and player executive committee.”
Changes on the Senior PGA Tour in 2001 – ESPN has been replaced by CNBC as the tour’s television network and Cadillac has been replaced by Charles Schwab as the TV umbrella sponsor – will make life more interesting for the Senior PGA Tour Tournament Association.
“This is a transition period for the Senior Tour, and with transition comes new challenges and problems,” said Jack Russell, chairman of the senior board of directors. “We are here to help make it a smooth transition.”
Being an intermediary is a most important duty. Each tournament (and tour) has different needs and goals.
But these associations do much more than fix holes. Their duties also include:
• performing market research at tournaments to extract local, regional and national perceptions of the spectator audience.
• mapping trends in attitude and activity;
• preparing tournament reports for sponsors ( weather, attendance, field strength, staff interaction, ticket sales and on-site vendors.)
•attracting a strong player field
A new television package, which begins next year, and tournament field strength are two areas of interest for the PGA Tour’s tournament association. Having a strong field is essential to success.
Getting the top players onto the course every week is not easy. Players have different agendas and goals for the year - on and off the course. The PGA Tour requires a player to enter 15 tournaments a year to keep his card. T
“The players are what make these tournaments go,” Palm said. “When there is a strong field, we see increased ticket sales, better TV ratings and raise more money for charities. “We do walk a fine line between keeping our members happy and the tour happy,” Palm said. “There are so many issues involving a golf tournament.”
That often means hitting the road.
Hall says she travels frequently, trying to get to every tournament at least once every two years.
“When I visit tournaments, I am looking at the tournament operationally and meet with their administration. I also visit with sponsors to discuss their needs and goals.”
There also is a TSA annual meeting, involving the senior staff, the board of directors and a congregation of all member tournament staffs.
The meeting’s agenda includes the LPGA’s annual summary from a tournament and headquarters perspective as well as sharing information and ideas to help create better events.
“We have progressed from grass roots to corporate in 24 years,” Hall said. “The association has grown stronger and healthier as has the LPGA. The goal is to continue to grow and capitalize on the right opportunities.”
Terry Jacoby is a sports writer for The Sacramento Bee.