Increasing Pro-Am Participation

ward-suttonWard Sutton, a PGA Master Professional, is the PGA general manager at Hidden Valley Country Club in Reno, Nevada.

Over the past few years, we have experienced growth in the participation of our club’s annual pro-am tournament. We were able to grow the event strategically by improving communication, player experiences and involvement, sponsorships, charity alliances, and so on. In 2013, I sent an invitation through the mail to every one of our Chapter members and increased participation from 100 players to 120 players. This year, we sent an invitation to all of our Section members and increased participation from 120 players to 140 players. The Hidden Valley Pro-Am benefits the Sierra Nevada Chapter Scholarship Fund. We select a charity that connects with the community and helps elevate participation. We also have an optional skins game and raffle available before the start of play with all net proceeds from the raffle benefiting the Apprentice Scholarship Fund. The raffle prizes are comprised of local donations from area courses and donations from Titleist. Try to figure out different ways like previously mentioned to get your players engaged at some level. We also attempt to create a total-day experience to ensure everyone has a great time. The day begins with a continental breakfast, tee prizes, range balls, personalized scorecards, staged golf cars and a high level of staff to give attention to the players. Beverages are available throughout the day and we end the day with a large high quality buffet and awards. Not everyone can be the tournament winner and it is more important to us that everyone had a positive experience and all of the previously mentioned add to that end. We try to give the player an experience of higher value than the entry fee that they pay for the pro-am.

As previously mentioned, we have grown out event from 100 players to 140 in the past two years and in 2014, we had 24 PGA Professionals and 116 amateurs for 140 players total. Over the past two years, we have been able to raise over $6,000 for PGA apprentices within our Chapter to help with their PGA education costs. We feel this is important because it encourages PGA Professionals and amateurs to participate knowing they are giving back and helping others within their local community. Our sponsors and vendors have been supportive in terms of assistance with the raffle prizes and tee prizes in our event to help the net benefit of the Apprentice Scholarship Fund. We have also had a significant number of other PGA Professionals donate rounds of four for the raffle; this year the raffle raised over $1,600 and that would have never been possible without their help. Lastly, I am in the fortunate position to have demonstrated to my finance committee and board of directors that our pro-am is a marketing opportunity for potential future membership and community involvement. Our food & beverage department and golf merchandise concession makes a profit for the day through food sales and prizes for the winners but we have forgone charging greens fees or golf car fees.

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Editor’s note: The above comments reflect the opinion and experiences of the submitting PGA Professional and are not endorsed by PGA Magazine or the PGA of America.