Organizing and Directing the United States Golf Teachers Cup®
Imagine getting the following phone call: “Our tournament is the national championship event of the USGTF, and we expect over 100 players. The dates we are looking at are Monday and Tuesday, October 7th and 8th. We need 10-minute intervals off the tee with a double-tee start, with the fi rst tee time 30 minutes after sunrise. We need to set aside time in the afternoon for a playoff if necessary. We also need the course to be completely marked in a professional manner; either your staff or I can do it. We need to set up a practice round rate prior to the competition for the participants, and a rate for the tournament that includes complimentary range balls. And, by the way, we’ll probably take around fi ve hours to play.”
If you’ve ever organized or directed a golf tournament, you know that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. Managing the United States Golf Teachers Cup is certainly no exception. In this article, I’ll give you a look at what we do and how we do it, and perhaps you can glean some information that may help you in organizing and running your own tournaments.
The first thing we do is sit down and decide where we want to have the tournament. This involves discussing certain areas of the country and then locating a suitable golf course in that area. Once we have selected a few candidate courses, we phone the directors of golf and give them the information above. In all the years I’ve been directing this tournament, we’ve never had a course turn us down. In fact, we’ve even had courses in the past
vying for our business.
The phone call is just the beginning of a long adventure. We then fl y out or drive to the course to check it out and to meet the staff. If it is a venue such as Boulder Creek in Nevada, where the staff has been in place a long time and we’ve been there before, this is a routine dotting of the i’s and crossing the t’s. At a new location, we sit down with the director of golf and/or the course tournament director and reiterate the points we’ve already talked about through phone and e-mail, and cover any details pertinent to that particular course.
Once we’ve reached agreement on every issue (and I go over each issue again to ensure there is no miscommunication), we set out to fi nd a suitable host hotel where we can recommend participants stay. We tell the hotel personnel we need room in the lobby to post our scores and tee times, and to see if they’re willing to have the hotel staff fi eld phone calls about the tournament and tee times.
Back in the offi ce, we have to create the promotional content for Golf Teaching Pro and the monthly e-newsletter. Jennifer Russakis and Suzy Johnson fi eld phone calls and process entries. One of the big challenges is making sure people sign up for the correct division. After the deadline has passed, they turn over the sign-up information to me via Microsoft Excel, and I then use the USGA’s Tournament Pairing Program (TPP) to enter in the information, make the tee times, make the scorecards, and do the scoring once on site. The scorecards are made on 65 or 67 weight bright white non-gloss paper.
I am then given the tournament budget and have to fi gure out a purse and breakdown for each division. One concern is the amount of the Ladies division purse. Because it is always the smallest division, I subsidize the purse by taking a small amount, proportionally, from the other divisions and adding it to this division. My belief is that the ladies pay the same amount of entry fee as the rest of us do, and they deserve to play for an amount that is befitting the other divisions. Even so, the Ladies division purse is still smaller than the other divisions, but it is my hope that one day this will no longer be the case.
In figuring out the purse breakdown, my goal is to give the last paid spot in each division prize money equal to or slightly more than the entry fee. This is pretty standard for golf tournaments of this nature. As you go up the prize money ladder, I see to it that the amount of division prize money increases in a reasonable manner and aesthetically makes sense. Take this example: 5th – $500, 4th – $600, 3rd – $800, 2nd – $1,000, and 1st – $1,500.
Please note several things about this breakdown:
1) The amount of increase in prize money from spot to spot increases as you get to the top. In other words, you won’t see fourth place paying $300 more than fifth place while first place pays only $100 more than second place;
2) As mentioned earlier, the aesthetics of the prize money breakdown. You don’t want to see something like this: 5th – $500, 4th – $550, 3rd – $615, 2nd – $820, and 1st – $1335. A more aesthetic breakdown may not be strictly mathematically proportional, but it’s easier to figure and frankly just reads better;
3) Second place and third place prize money combined are greater than first place. I’ve seen some tournaments pay the winner so much money that equity for the rest of the players is lost. At the very least, second place and third place combined should equal first place.
All right, so all of that is out of the way. Now we’re at the tournament site three days prior to the first round of play. What do we do there? Well, I meet with the director of golf about marking the course. Sometimes the staff does it, other times I and/or other USGTF tournament personnel such as Cole Golden do it. It depends upon the desires of the course. Ideally, I would like the course to do it, such as Orange County National did in 2011, but if they can’t, I’m glad to take on the task.
One of the important things is the placement of the out of bounds stakes. Some courses’ stakes are either missing or ambiguous, so sometimes it’s a big chore to place them correctly. For example, you might see a hole where there are out of bounds stakes off the tee, but the last one is positioned 200 yards from the tee. Around this area, how can you tell if someone’s ball is out of bounds?
Many people would say, “Well, if your ball is past the last stake, it can’t be out of bounds.” The problem with this is that this isn’t a good enough definition. I asked Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, how to solve this problem. His answer: “You can’t even make a ruling.” So, you can see how important it is to have the last out of bounds stake placed in such a way that there will never be any ambiguity.
Marking the water hazards is sometimes challenging, especially when you have a bunker that borders a water hazard – this is a real marking nightmare! You also have to make sure to mark the water hazards in such a way that not one participant will ever not know if they are in the hazard or not, or where their ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. So, if you’re thinking this out-of-the-way part of the water doesn’t need to be marked because no one will hit it there, think again. Better to be safe than sorry.
Ground under repair is generally reserved for the fairway cut only, unless there is clear damage outside this area. Areas that are simply worn or unkempt to a certain degree don’t apply.
Information regarding the practice round tees are made available at the pro shop. Sometimes this is simply a case of using the assigned tees; other times, we are forced to give more elaborate instructions, depending upon exactly where each division will play from.
Now it’s time to make a rules sheet. It should be simple and very clear but very thorough, with no ambiguities. Ideally you want to keep it to one page.
I then go over the details with the starters, letting them know that they need an official clock, set to the exact time. Some cell phones don’t have the exact time to the exact second, but this can be found by calling (202) 762-1401. We also go over the wording to be used to announce each group and its participants. The starters are to hand out the rules sheet along with the official scorecards, and then announce the order of play. When the starting time arrives, the starter announces, “This is the (X:XX) starting time,” etc. At this moment, if a player in the group is not either on the tee or very close by, the player is considered late – even if he is the last to tee off.
At the end of everyone’s round, scorecards are collected and entered into the TPP. When everyone is done, the TPP will assign the final round pairings, with some necessary tweaks by yours truly. Results and tee times are printed and posted at the course and hotel.
The second day is mainly a repeat of the first day. Hopefully everything goes smoothly once again. After play, prize money amounts are figured and readied for the closing banquet and awards ceremony.
One thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that no matter what you do or don’t do, not everyone will agree with you on every aspect of the tournament. It’s not that they don’t appreciate your hard work, but that they have their own ideas about this or that. All you can do is to make the tournament experience the best you can for the vast majority of people, using accepted tournament practices, and go from there.
This is just a glimpse into what it’s like running a tournament of this magnitude. Hopefully you can find an item or two that may help you in planning your next event.