In conjunction with the PGA TOUR and the FORE!Kids Foundation, The First Tee selected 3 participants to attend the 2019 Zurich Classic to cover the event as Junior Course Reporters. Armed with PGA TOUR issued media credentials and enthusiasm, the Junior Course Reporters interviewed tournament staff and volunteers to investigate the preparation and planning that goes into hosting a golf tournament of this magnitude. The Junior Course Reporters were asked to pick a topic of coverage on which to collect information via the opportunities provided while on site. The following are the fruits of their investigative journalism…
By: Matthew Biehl
Going to a professional golf tournament is enjoyable. You can enjoy many things from watching the professional golfers play, to relaxing in the warmth of the sun. While you enjoy all this fun, you do not think about who makes each tournament happen, what they did to help, and how they actually helped out. It is what’s on the inside of the tournament that counts.
The people that work the tournaments help in many ways. Peter Dachisen, a rules official, goes around the world to assist players when they need a ruling, and also enforces the rules if someone does not follow them. Most professionals do not need a ruling, but the rules official’s job is a big responsibility. His job is a big responsibility because he makes sure the professionals do the right thing and do not cheat. Another person who helps support PGA tournaments is Mike Rodrigue. He helps set up the tournament including the Acme food tent so people can eat great food during the Zurich golf tournament. It takes about a week to prepare the food. He also gives the PGA money, and in return, he can sell ACME products. Also, there is Wade Stettner, the meteorologist of the PGA Tour. His job is to make sure there is no lightning in a 8 mile radius, so everyone at the PGA tournament is safe. It is a really important job. These are three examples of people who help in major ways.
There are companies that support the PGA through merchandise. Eric Lassiter is a representative of Oakley which is a company that makes detailed glasses that adjust to your surroundings. Justin Phillips is also a company representative like Eric Lassiter, but Justin Phillips represents Levelwear, a company that makes shirts, shorts, belts, and hats. Levelwear, like Oakley, supports the PGA by paying the PGA, so they can sell their products during golf tournaments.
There are also larger sponsors of PGA tournaments. For example, David Perlis is the Chairman of the Board of Fore Kids Foundation, which is a big supporter of PGA and the Zurich Classic. Fore Kids Foundation donates a lot of money to PGA to set up tournaments and has partnerships with PGA and Zurich Classic. Additionally, he is the leader of more than 200 Fore Kids Foundation volunteers at the Zurich. Another big supporter of the PGA is Liz Broekman. She is the Director of Power at Fidelity Bank. She helps women get jobs with their abilities. Fidelity Bank supports PGA and in return, gets their own booth during tournaments.
In conclusion, these people are a few of the many people who help out during professional golf tournaments. Thanks to these people and many others, golf tournaments can take place, and you can have fun in the sun. It is about the people on the inside that count.
What Goes on Behind the Scenes
By: Piper Hall
When people visit the Zurich Classic, they usually focus on the players. Instead, I got to meet and interview around 20 people in my two days as a Junior Course Reporter for The First Tee of Greater New Orleans. My mission was to find out about more than the players (though they do deserve credit for their impeccable skills). My interviews provided a behind-the-scenes look at all of work that goes into creating such a huge event. I was able to talk to so many incredible people and hear about their contributions to the Zurich Classic. From food to merchandise, supplies, sponsors, and media, there are so many components of hosting a golf tournament.
With my media credentials, I was able to access the Media Center of the Zurich Classic, a homebase for all of the reporters, journalists, photographers, and videographers covering the tournament. Every morning, Zurich Classic Media Director Tom Long would issue our media credentials. Tom works with the PGA TOUR and the Zurich Classic to make sure all tournament questions are answered. He has been a member of The Fore Kids Foundation for 25 years and has directed all Zurich Classic media for 15 years. I also met media New Zealand native Mark Williams, who is the PGA TOUR Director of Communications. Mark has been working with the PGA tour for 11 years, where he coordinates interviews for the PGA TOUR. He has a true love for the game of golf and has played since he was a 4 year old. Local favorite Jeff Duncan, a columnist for Times Picayune and Nola.com, travels all over the world for stories. He finds his job very important because he gets to educate and inform people in the community. Jeff is in his 20th year in New Orleans and has worked as a journalist since 1987.
In the Merchandise Tent, I spoke with TPC Louisiana Assistant Golf Pro and Merchandise Tent Manager Ben Hutchinson, who explained that the PGA TOUR purchased and shipped over $305,000 worth of merchandise to be sold during the Zurich Classic. I also spoke with Oakley’s Field Manager Eric Lassiter, who was at the Zurich Classic to sell merchandise like the Oakley Prizm Lense – sunglasses made with special lenses for specific sports and environments. The lenses are engineered by studying the eye and are designed to absorb specific colors one would see on a golf course. Justin Phillips has been working with Levelwear for 10 years. Levelwear makes customizable performance golf clothing and currently holds over 100 university merchandise licenses.
We were very fortunate to have been allowed into the Fidelity Bank Champion’s Club, one of the Zurich Classic’s most sought after tickets. I spoke with Liz Broekman, Director of Fidelity Bank’s. P.O.W.E.R. program, which stands for Potential Of Women Entrepreneurs Realized. Liz works with female business owners and entrepreneurs to help them connect and grow their businesses. Fidelity Bank is a proud sponsor of the Zurich Classic.
The Fore!Kids Foundation
The golf tournament is produced by a 3-way partnership between The Fore!Kids Foundation, The Zurich Classic, and The PGA TOUR. The Fore!Kids Foundation Board of Directors gives guidance for donating to children’s organizations with funds raised during the Foundation’s golf events. Our group was lucky to catch Board Chair David Perlis in the Media Center. David has been a member of The Fore!Kids Foundation for 25 years. He said the acting as the Board Chair is a year-round responsibility for which he directs and provides resources for the Fore!Kids CEO and President. He volunteers not because of golf, but to give back to the community. The First Tee is one of the major benefactors that receives a grant from The Fore!Kids Foundation. I send my personal thanks to the Fore!Kids Foundation for making The Zurich Classic Pro-Am Caddie Day and other programs available to The First Tee participants!
I had the pleasure of speaking with restaurant owners Mike Rodrigue, owner of ACME Oyster House, and Tommy Cvitanovich, owner of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, who both talked about their businesses and how much effort goes into selling food throughout the week. Drago’s has 4 locations and over 500 employees. Tommy is proud to see his father’s (now deceased) name all over the tournament. He said that watching people enjoy food and have a good time is one of his favorite things about the tournament. Zurich patrons eat over 30,000 oysters and 150-200 gallons of sauce during the week of the Zurich Classic! According to ACME’s Mike Rodrigue, he and his team start on site a month before the event and meet again after to discuss any need for improvement. ACME has been at the tournament since 1973 , and every year they try to keep it “fresh.” ACME Oyster House donates it’s food and services to The Fore Kids Foundation as “their way of giving back to the community.” One thing everyone agrees about is that one of the best and most unique part of the Zurich Classic is the abundance of New Orleans style food!
There are workers on the golf course that help the tournament run smoothly, like Peter Dachisen, a rules official, Wes Gilmore, a First Tee golf coach and worker at the Zurich Classic, CJ Tessitore, a practice range manager, and people like Bobby, Amy, Scott, and Tommy who work on the course to provide help and snacks to the players. Practice Range Manager CJ Tessitore are very passionate about the golf. He is 80 years old still loves to work in golf. He says that “golf gets you out and you can still play as you get older.” CJ thinks the team format is a great part of the Zurich Classic and he believes it is a very hospitable tournament. Wes Gilmore also works at the practice range making sure the players get what they need. He loves the environment and being close to the pros to see what they do. Peter Dachisen is a rules official who has been traveling the world officiating for 5 years. There are 8 strategically placed rules officials on the course during the Zurich Classic. They are generally off to the side and are called upon when needed. Peter has played golf all of his life and getting to work with the best players in the world encourages him. Lastly, no PGA golf tournament is possible without its very own meteorologist! Wade Stettner is one of 7 meteorologists on the PGA TOUR. He travels with the the TOUR to forecast weather for tournaments. His most important role is to look out for lightning. He warns and evacuates about 30 minutes before a storm. When the weather is good, Wade answers questions about wind, moisture in the ground, and other things that can affect a golfer’s game. He has been working 19 years as a meteorologist and 14 years with the PGA TOUR
I hope you enjoyed learning about planning the Zurich Classic from reading my report! I learned so much as a First Tee Junior Course Reporter. It takes a very large team to plan and execute a PGA TOUR tournament. I would love to attend the Zurich Classic next year as a spectator or perhaps for another year as a Junior Course Reporter!
It’s Hard Work, But It’s Worth It
By: Zaire Stevenson
Before my experience as a First Tee Junior Course Reporter at the Zurich Classic, I thought a PGA TOUR tournament was be simple to put on, and I was very surprised to see how difficult it is. As a Junior Course Reporter, I was given the task of investigating what goes on in the making of a PGA TOUR event.
I met up with The First Tee Coach Wesley Gilmore, who is also on the staff at TPC Louisiana. He said that preparing for the Zurich Classic is very hectic, especially ensuring that the golf course is at its peak. He enjoys being able to be a part of the experience and watching the tournament and thinks the new format is very exciting. During the tournament, Wes works at the practice range with CJ Tessitore. CJ is the practice facility manager. He and his staff are in charge of making sure each pro receives their special practice range golf balls.
With access to the Zurich Classic Media Center, I met Tom Long, the Media Director for the Zurich Classic. He is tasked with promoting events, writing press releases, running and operating the media center, working with title sponsors, and planning the 18th green ceremony for top tournament finishers. He has been a member of the Fore!Kids Foundation for 25 years, and the manager of the Media Center for 15 years. He enjoys working with media and being a part of the Zurich Classic team. Also in the Media Center was Mark Williams, the Director of Communications for the PGA TOUR. He is responsible for coordinating all tournament interviews. He is an 11 year employee of the PGA and he loves his job. Jeff Duncan is a columnist for the Times Picayune and Nola.com. He writes opinions on sports events and believes it is important to inform the community on public affairs. He has been working for the Times Picayune for 20 years and has 32 years of experience in journalism.
Back on the course, I met a variety of different tournament workers and contributors like PGA TOUR Rules Official Peter Dachisen. He travels with the PGA TOUR year-round assisting players with any concerns pertaining to the rules of golf. Mr. Dachisen has been a rules official for five years. Wade Stettner is a 7 year veteran of the meteorologist team of the PGA TOUR. He is in charge of tracking the weather during tournament week to insure safety and proper playing conditions. Mr.Stettner uses technology that can track weather movement and detect lightning strikes at a distance of over eight miles! Wade has 19 years of meteorology experience.
Lastly, I was fortunate to interview tournament sponsor and ACME Oyster House owner, Mike Rodrigue. ACME Oyster House is one of the largest food vendors at the Zurich Classic. Mr. Rodrigue has over 1000 employees who work during the week of the tournament and he donates the proceeds from food sales made at the tournament to charity. Mike is also past President of The First Tee of Greater New Orleans Board of Directors, and remains a major supporter of the chapter.
There are so many more jobs and important people that are involved in the making PGA TOUR events like the Zurich Classic possible. From what I have learned as a First Tee Junior Course Reporter is that it is is hard work, but worth it in the end!