Q&A: Mike Fox, Isleworth Collegiate director

Georgia senior Russell Henley and Bulldogs coach Chris Haack during Round 1 at the Isleworth Collegiate.

Georgia senior Russell Henley and Bulldogs coach Chris Haack during Round 1 at the Isleworth Collegiate.

Each year, it seems there is one tournament to which teams hope to score an invite. That tournament is none other than the Isleworth Collegiate, which allows players to travel to Central Florida for the chance to play in Tiger’s backyard and get treated like members at the prestigious Isleworth Golf & Country Club.

photo

Mike Fox

I caught up with Mike Fox, the tournament director for the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, to learn more about this one-of-a-kind event.

What makes the Isleworth Collegiate such a premier event?

Each year we try to treat our event just like a PGA Tour event. A lot goes into it from the operations side of things to signage, gathering over 80 volunteers, our marketing efforts, the programs, and the gifts for the players. We do it all for the players and the coaches. We are lucky to have such a strong relationship with our friends at Nike, Under Armor and Oakley to help take this annual tournament to the next level. Monday night we hosted our dinner banquet with a guest speaker who was Ian Poulter. He also brought the Ryder Cup, and that was really neat for the players to be able to take their picture with it. In years past we have had Lou Holtz, Steve Sands, Mark O’ Meara, David Leadbetter and Rich Lerner.

Year in, year out this is one of the top 10 fields in the country, how do you determine who gets the invites each year?

When we started this event in 2004, we were set on making this the best field in the country. After each ICI tournament ends, we sit down and take a look at the rankings and go through who the top teams are. We also take into consideration who has played well here before. If you look at the winners of the event, it really shows we have had some of the best teams in college golf. Georgia has won four times, and then Oklahoma State and Texas have also won once. It’s clear that the winners of this tournament have been three of the most dominant golf programs in college golf. It shows the level and depth of the field when you can say which teams have won your event.

Are there any changes we might see at this event in the near future?

Throughout the year we encourage players and coaches to give us feedback whenever they would like. We want to make this event for them, so we always want to know what they are thinking. One thing we want to look in to and possibly do is have galleries on the course to watch this great event. Whether it’s family, local residents, or alumni of schools we would love to see them out here. My big picture idea is to have a grandstand on 18 filled with fans one afternoon.

What do you think people across the country think of ICI?

I think it is safe to say the word is out. We treat the players fantastic with the gifts, food, guest speakers, and most importantly provide a championship golf course in pristine condition. This time of the year, the weather starts to get cold across the country, yet it couldn’t be more perfect right now in Central Florida. I couldn’t imagine a better town with a better golf course this time of year.

Of all the different aspects and things you do for the kids, what’s the one thing that blows them away?

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people that when players come in to the champions grill at the clubhouse, their mouths just drop. The people at Isleworth treat the players like actual members. When the champions come back we want them to have just a few more perks than the other teams. We think you should be rewarded for winning this event. Each year, when teams bring their flags we will also waive the defending champs higher than all the others for bragging rights.

I’ll admit I have never been to a college event with a better program, and that includes the national championship. How much work goes into it?

There’s three women largely responsible for that; Maribeth Ball, Jules Parker, and Tina Holmes and they do a phenomenal job top to bottom. Players are really proud to show them to their families and friends back home. Throughout the year, those three will call and interview players for the program, gather photos, work on the layout, and try to make it unique and different each year. Having a program like that only adds to the quality of event we are trying to run out here at Isleworth.

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