Toughman-Princess Events

Kevin-McKinleyKevin McKinley, the Michigan PGA Section secretary and chairman of the Section’s Patriot Golf Committee, and a past member of the PGA of America’s Inclusion Committee, is the PGA director of golf at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan.

Fall in northern Michigan is the downswing of our season, and often it takes a unique event to get folks to brave the weather that could be and sign up to play. Many neighboring courses have made it a tradition over the years to run Toughman-type events at the end of the season. This is fitting because not only can you make the course tough but the conditions typically add to the challenge. In an effort to continue to stay ahead of the curve, we have taken our traditional Toughman event and evolved it into what we call the Toughman-Princess. We have the luxury at Treetops to have four 18-hole golf courses that we can contest our tournaments on. For this event, we utilize our toughest course (Robert Trent Jones’ Masterpiece course) on day one and our easiest course (Rick Smith’s Tradition layout) on day two.  In harmony with other Toughman events around the state, we set up the Masterpiece as difficult (yet fair) as we possibly can, and then turn around the next day and set the Tradition up as easy as possible, which includes playing the forward tees. The event is a three–person scramble with a cash (for the professionals) or gift certificate (to protect amateur status) payout.

The result has been a huge uptick in business on a weekend that historically is slow. The first year that we switched to this format, we increased our golf revenue year over year by nearly $10,000. Many of the players come in and play a practice round on the Friday before the event as well, and stay a couple nights in our hotel. A full field for this event is 108 players. When it was just the Toughman, we struggled to get to 80 players, and most would not sign up until the last minute when they could view the 5-day forecast. The 2014 event drew 96 players and in 2015, with over a month still to go, we had only 2 spots available and now require up-front payment to avoid last-minute cancellations due to the weather. This is only possible due to the popularity of this event due to the format change and the worry that the tournament will fill. Now, regardless of the weather, the entire field shows up which has an offshoot benefit to our golf shop sales with our participants purchasing cold weather gear. A feather in the cap for this event is that it also serves as a fundraiser for Bountiful Harvest, which is a program run by local churches that feeds needy families at Thanksgiving. In 2014, our donation to the program was able to provide Thanksgiving Dinner to 30 families here in Otsego County.

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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.