Using Influentials

John Lyberger, the 2008 PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities, is the PGA general manager at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida.

A couple years ago, we noticed that our members’ response to our tournament schedule was somewhat sluggish. We’d have members respond enthusiastically when we talk about the upcoming season, but all too often we’d have less-than-stellar responses. We knew the members were proud of their club, but more often than not the tournaments were simply left on their mind’s back burner until it was too late. In particular, we had a two-man member-member tournament every year that wasn’t getting the turnout we thought it deserved. To get things rolling, our staff brought in the most influential members at the club – the serious golfers everyone looks to – and asked them to help us build enthusiasm for the event. These influentials then went out and spoke to the rest of their friends and acquaintances at the club, talking up the event and getting people to actually sign up rather than passively let the event pass them by. The response has been fantastic since we took this proactive approach to let the members’ peers build enthusiasm, and that two-man team tournament has become the marquee event of our tournament schedule.

We’ve roughly doubled the participation in the two-man event, growing it from around 40 to 80 players in only two years. Moreover, we’re expecting about 15 to 20 percent growth in the coming year. Part of the reluctance, we learned, was that many members thought themselves too inexperienced or high-handicap to play in a tournament. We explained that part of the joy of golf, is that anyone can play in these tournaments, as we take handicaps into account and can help them find appropriate partner pairings. If you’re finding yourself with an event that’s being unexpectedly overlooked, gather your own club’s influentials: sometimes all it takes is a helpful push to get the ball rolling.