PGA Level 1 Seminar: Day 3

Doug Vilven
Doug Vilven (PGA) talks about how to develop tournament business and what it takes to run a tournament.

Wednesday belonged to Tournament Operations. Debbie Foley (PGA) kicked things off in the first hour with a recap of what we covered on Day 1. Debbie has worked for the PGA of America for 17 years and has evaluated over 5,000 Work Experience Portfolios, so I’m sure she’s seen her fair share of both good and bad.

This was a helpful exercise because it got us thinking back to how we can improve the objectives and strategies many of us are working on when we get back to the hotel each night. Because this is a new way of thinking for most of us, it’s a lot to digest, which is why this week serves as a nice, high-level overview of Level 1 as a whole.

I realize that Business Planning, Customer Relations, and Tournament Operations Monday through Wednesday aren’t the most exciting topics to discuss or even write about, but while Business Planning and Customer Relations can at least be utilized in multiple professions, Tournament Operations is more specific to the golf industry.

They can be a major revenue generator at a golf course if done correctly. In fact, it’s such an important skill that an entire day is dedicated just to beginning to learn how to do it right.

In the morning, we discussed Developing Tournament Business, Marketing and Promoting Tournament Business, and then Planning the Tournament. When you’re developing tournament business, you have to create a tournament operations business plan, align tournament business with your mission, define the specific role of the tournament, assess the state of tournament business, know the market, and then develop tournament business objectives and related strategies. The most important considerations for promoting tournament business or a specific tournament are the audience and the purpose. Then you have to plan the thing.

There’s so much that goes into planning a tournament that it’s way too much to summarize here. That’s why I’m calling tournament planning a skill. In fact, I have a newfound appreciation for the practice, and I almost feel bad having complained about a few of the tournaments I’ve played in in the past. I’m reminded of what it was like to run the two tournaments I did while I was at the Golf Academy. I’ve had a little exposure to tournament planning, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

What really helped drive this point home for me was the activity we did right before, during, and after lunch. We split up into groups and did a little role playing. In our group, there were two golf professionals, and the rest of us represented a charity organization looking to find a course to host a tournament to help us raise $30,000-$50,000 for our non-profit.

For our big activity of the day, we split up into groups and attempted to organize a charity tournament.
For our big activity of the day, we split up into groups and attempted to organize a charity tournament.

We told the professionals what we wanted and then continued to negotiate our terms around the lunch table. At the end of the day, what made this real-world example so difficult was thinking about things from the customer’s perspective (the charity) and not just from the standpoint of the golf professional. It’s a very different way of thinking about a tournament, and I think it’ll be a valuable way of thinking when planning future tournaments.

We can all do a better job of putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers. We’re good on the logistical details. That’s about it. Sometimes we forget we’re providing an experience.

The final portion of the day was spent reviewing Course Preparation. The items that fall under this category are Marking the Course, Rules and Notices, and finally Facility Preparation and Running the Event. Doug Vilven (PGA) is a bit of an expert when it comes to marking the course and the Rules. Today was his last day, and tomorrow he heads back to Salt Lake City. “The Head Professional should mark the golf course, not the course superintendent,” says Doug. “Do it every three weeks or so, and go out and have some fun with it.”

It also helps if you have a Tournament Checklist, a document you can use while planning your tournament in order to identify the time, the tasks, and the resources necessary to make sure the tournament goes off without a hitch.

At the end of the day, Debbie really left us with something to thing about. “There are ten things that require zero talent,” she said. “Being on time, work ethic, effort, body language, energy, attitude, passion, being coachable, doing extra, and being prepared. When you add talent, interest, and curiosity, you can go a long way.”

We got out a little after 4:45p (instead of 4:30p), and I’ll be honest, the last hour or so felt like a blur. I think I’m getting sick because I feel a cold coming on. It’s still only Wednesday, but the good news is this we only have two more days to go. The real fun starts tomorrow.

Preview of Day 4: Introduction to Teaching Seminar (8:30a-6:00p)
A lot of us have been waiting all week for the next two days of teaching seminars. They will be the longest days of the week, but I think (and hope) they will be worth it. Rafael Floriani (PGA), Bill Cioffoletti (PGA), and David Kraus (PGA) will be conducting the Seminar. Bill’s the energetic guy from Tuesday morning, so I’m looking forward to seeing his enthusiasm out on the practice tee. We’re in the classroom in the morning, and in the afternoon, we finally get to go outside.

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