Alberta Plays Host

Written by Rennay Craats

For many golfers, tournaments are the highlight of the season. They allow players to forge friendships while testing their skills against great golfers from across the province, region or country. They are amazing weekends of golf and fun, but the hard work begins long before tee off. For months in advance, course committees consider everything from practice rounds to prize presentations to ensure the tournament runs smoothly.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” says Adam Helmer, Director of rules, competitions and amateur status for Golf Canada. “We have a staff member dedicated to securing future venues and we typically look three to five years out.”

Golf courses seeking consideration for a major event have to meet specific requirements to qualify. Courses need adequate clubhouse and banquet space, a suitable driving range for warm up and practice, the appropriate yardage for the category, a fitting course design and layout, proximity to amenities to support out-of-town competitors and, lastly, they need community and member support.

It is critical for club members to be on board with hosting an event. Members not only need to sacrifice their tee times for four or five days but they also must be willing to offer their time as volunteers as well.

“It’s a big ask of membership at a busy golf course like ours,” says Greig Burnie, executive golf professional and General Manager at Highwood Golf and Country Club, “but our membership embraces junior golf and we’re proud to host the 2018 Western Future Links tournament.”

Junior events are an easy sell. Members are eager to support young golfers and build junior golf at the grass-roots club level as well as nationally. That was one reason the Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club threw its hat into the ring to host a junior event and why around one-quarter of its membership has already jumped on board to volunteer for the Canadian Junior Boys championship in July.

“We have a strong six-person committee that is willing to put their time into the event and be on call 24/7 during that week, and staff who will essentially live at the golf course for those five days,” says Cam Jacques, General Manager of Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club.

These volunteers agree that it’s time well spent. Golfers who do well in these tournaments can earn a spot on the national golf team or attract scholarship attention from universities. That’s what it’s all about for clubs and members. While there can be a modest economic spinoff for the community and new golfers visiting the course, hosting is more about showcasing their facilities, getting wider exposure, and most importantly helping grow the game and supporting golfers.

In return, Golf Canada supports these courses as they plan their events. A tournament director guides the course committee and sub-committees through the process, offering information covering everything from volunteer expectations and responsibilities to food and beverage requirements to pin and tee placements. Golf Canada officials also visit the course a month prior to the event to help iron out any wrinkles and to ensure everything is ready for day one.

“They give you a binder that says what you need to do and gives you a timeline of what you need to accomplish when, from sponsorship to volunteers to training to course set up. If you stay up to date with that, you’ll do fine,” says Jacques.

Tim Garbutt, marketing professional with Linx Marketing, operates three events in the PGA Tour Canada’s Mackenzie Tour in much the same way as courses do the amateur events. He builds on the same six organizational pillars—volunteers, the host facility, sponsors, charity, the players, and the media—to ensure his tour stops are successful.

With $200,000 in prize money on the line and costs ranging from $500,000 to $750,000 at PGA events, sponsorship is crucial. Garbutt works six to 12 months in advance to secure the financial backing to cover costs as well as ensure there is a tidy sum for charity at the end. The tournaments also extend into the community, holding junior and women’s clinics and having professional players out supporting charity initiatives.

“We are really community focused. We try to engage as many people as possible, and not just to come out and watch golf,” says Garbutt. “The community in which we work is extremely important as is growing the game of golf.”

From smaller tournaments to week-long professional events, golf courses follow a similar playbook when hosting their events. It takes long days, hard work, dedicated volunteers and staff, and months of planning every step of the event from registration to celebrating the winners.  To support golf and golfers in their area, members agree it’s worth every second.

Alberta Plays Host

This article was originally published in the 2018 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.

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