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The Golf Drought is Ending in MI – Thanks to the LPGA!

The Golf Drought is Ending in MI – Thanks to the LPGA!
Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

The State of Michigan has not had a Professional golf event since 2009.

That’s a pretty long drought for a State that has a very strong history of great golf.  One of my favorite golf courses is Black Forest, a few hours drive north of Detroit, and I have fond memories of playing golf in that area.  Thanks to the LPGA, that drought is coming to an end, and let’s hope that the PGA Tour is not far behind.  Thanks to Crains Detroit Business for this article about a tournament that will certainly impact the economy of Michigan!
The Golf Drought is Ending in MI - Thanks to the LPGA!
Last week’s announcement that the Ladies Professional Golf Association would stage a new tournament in Ann Arbor next May has some wondering when the men’s pro tour will end its six-year absence from Michigan.

The PGA Tour hasn’t played an event in the state since the Buick Open in Grand Blanc ended in 2009.

And there hasn’t been a major men’s rotating event since the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township.

Golf insiders say Michigan’s economy has improved, and if the new LPGA Volvik Championship, scheduled for May 26-29 at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, is especially successful financially, it could turn some heads at the PGA Tour’s Florida headquarters.

“I definitely think this market is ripe for more professional golf,” said Keith Karbo, CEO of Ann Arbor-based sports marketing firm Red Arrow Partnerships who is the originator and tournament director of the LPGA Volvik Championship. “I think what this is going to do is going to revive interest in professional golf tournaments in Southeast Michigan.”

How the LPGA Volvik Championship plays out on the business side will be something the men’s tour keeps its eye on, said Dave Richards, owner of Bloomfield Hills-based Resort & Golf Marketing.

“The PGA Tour always is looking for new sites and new sponsors,” he said.

“Say there’s a 30 percent increase (in corporate hospitality sales), that might be something that shakes up or speeds up somebody’s thought process.”

The cash outlay for a men’s tour event is significantly more than the cost of an LPGA event, making it a tougher sell in Michigan’s still-recovering economic climate. Also, the PGA Tour can’t come here unless there’s an opening on its tournament calendar.

Richards estimated an LPGA event costs its main sponsor about $500,000 to $750,000, while a midlevel event on the PGA Tour, such as the now-defunct Buick Open in Grand Blanc, is $5 million to $6 million.

Once a tournament is on the calendar, the challenge is selling corporate sponsorships for things such as hospitality tents and chalets on the golf course and tables in the clubhouse.

The Golf Drought is Ending in MI – Thanks to the LPGA!

“How many corporate tents can you sell? That’s what really drives the entire event,” Richards said.

Hospitality packages for the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills began at $37,500 for a 10-person table and increased to $500,000 for larger, more sophisticated offerings.

More recently, the 75-person suites along the 12th green at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta were selling for $95,000 for the Tour Championship last month.

Richards estimated that a PGA Tour event is eight to 10 times the cost of an LPGA Tour stop, but Michigan’s improving economy means more companies are gradually becoming interested again in such spending.

“I think we’re in a better climate now, but we’re coming back a lot slower than we crashed,” he said. “In the old days, we sold out corporate tents as fast as anyone in the country.”

Buyers usually were car companies, their suppliers, and banks, he said.

“A lot of the golf industry in this state was mostly dependent on the auto industry. When it crashed in the late 2000s, it affected a lot of the industry in the state,” said Kevin Frisch, CEO of Gaylord-based Fusion Media Strategies, a golf and travel marketing firm. “Since 2010, I’ve seen the golf industry improving, in rounds played and travel.”

Frisch predicted that the men’s tour will return within five to 10 years because Michigan companies are increasingly willing to spend marketing dollars on events such as golf tournaments.

The Golf Drought is Ending in MI - Thanks to the LPGA!

Kevin Frisch: “For Detroit to not have (a PGA Tour stop) is still shocking to me.”

“I think there’s going to be money to bring back a tournament,” Frisch said. “People are looking to getting back into spending money on golf.”

If and when the PGA Tour returns, the Detroit area is the natural landing spot, he said.

“For Detroit to not have (a PGA Tour stop) is still shocking to me. The quality of golf courses in Detroit is certainly capable of hosting a PGA Tour event or a major golf championship,” Frisch said.

A message seeking comment about the men’s tour’s potential interest in returning to Michigan was left for Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president and chief global communications officer.

Detroit certainly has potential PGA Tour event sponsors.

Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman Dan Gilbert has invested in golf, such as being the title sponsor of the annual Quicken Loans National tournament in Virginia, and of 2015 Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler.

“Quicken Loans and our family of companies are constantly looking to attract exciting events to Detroit to help fuel and promote the city’s revitalization,” Aaron Emerson, Quicken Loans vice president of communications, said via email.

Quicken also is the tour’s official mortgage sponsor, while Kalamazoo-based Stryker Corp. is the PGA Tour’s official joint replacement sponsor.

General Motors Co.

Which dropped sponsorship of the Buick Open, in 2010, signed a six-year deal to be the title sponsor of the one of the four World Golf Championship events, known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship, beginning in 2011.

Economic Effects?  Read on here!

Source: Crains Detroit Business

Pictures: Travis Pointe Country Club    RIVAN STINSON

Thanks for reading The Golf Drought is Ending in MI – Thanks to the LPGA!

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