Experience plays major role in directing Senior PGA Tournament

Senior PGA Championship Director Ryan Ogle reviews the positioning of evacuation vehicles at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores with Donae Donatello, Manager of Volunteer Operations. The tournament returns to the Benton Harbor facility May 22-27, 2018.

Experience plays major role in

directing Senior PGA Tournament

By Tom O’Neill

          If you’ve been to the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores, take a moment to sit back and ponder all of the undertakings of running a successful tournament. There’s the fan experience, the sponsor experience, transportation, weather, 1600 plus volunteers not to mention sales and media relations. It seems a bit overwhelming. Yet, Championship Director Ryan Ogle at 30 years old takes everything in stride with the 2018 edition just six months out.

            Ogle points to experience, not only with the staff, volunteers and the uniqueness of the Golf Club at Harbor Shores, but testing new ideas at the tournament every year to give fans an enjoyable experience. This will be his third Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, his second as Championship Director. He started as the Volunteer Operations Manager in February 2013, preparing for the 2014 tournament. “It feels like last month we were just wrapping up the 2016 tournament.”

            The Oklahoma State graduate, with a degree in Business Management and minor in Sports Management, says he meets with his 18-member executive committee about once a month. There are 60 members under the guidance of Sam Abdelnour who serves as the general chairman. “He is the face of the volunteer program and spokesperson.” Ogle said. Eighty to 85 percent of those have worked the past two tournaments. “We don’t have to meet that often because of the experience. The type of meeting has changed to what new elements can we add.”

            Who handles the course set-up? “Everything inside the ropes is handled by Kerry Haigh. He’s worked for 25 years with the PGA on course set-up. “Kerry’s already very familiar with the course and will probably visit about one month before the tournament.

            Are sales and sponsorships handled at the PGA home office? “No, everything is handled here,” Ogle began. “Brent Curtis has been working on this since 2011. He actively started the day after the 2016 Championship ended. We’ve had great support from the community.”

            Danae Donatello has replaced Rachel Wright as Manager of Volunteer Operations. Wright is now at the PGA home office.  Ogle said few openings remain for volunteers but they are finalizing uniform sizes before the big distribution day at St. Joseph High School April 20-22. Tatiana Grant is handling the marketing and promotions Brandon Haney is over operations.

            There are several former and current tour players now eligible for the Senior Tour according to Ogle. New names include Steve Stricker, V.J. Singh, David Toms and Miguel Angel Jimenez. With the second largest purse on the 2018 Champions Tour, Ogle expects many of the best players to come out. Invites are sent out from the PGA home office in February.

            Fans can expect to see past winners Roger Chapman, Colin Montgomerie and Rocco Mediate participating according to Ogle. Last year’s Senior PGA Champion, Bernhard Langer,  is scheduled to visit in April to promote the championship. At 60, Langer is one of the oldest pros on the senior circuit. “He plays like 30” Ogle added. Langer earned $3,677,539, finishing first on the money list. He made the top ten 16 times in 22 tournaments during 2017.

            Ogle said since 2011 the PGA, Kitchen Aid and Harbor Shores have donated nearly $2 million into the community, not to mention all of the charitable events hosted at the course. The Golf Channel and NBC’s telecasts have let the world see Southwest Michigan. “The TV exposure alone is worth about $15 million. The Southwest Michigan Tourist Council says they see a spike in hotel stays during the week long tournament. I’m glad we can have a positive impact,” Ogle added.

            There are plenty of ticket packages available, especially if you’re searching for a gift to give your golf enthusiast. One unique option would be the Makers Trail 19th Hole Access. It includes admission Tuesday thru Sunday along with access to the special viewing area between 16 green and 17 tee which has a private bar. Four five-dollar voucher tickets are also included. Two packages include golf at Harbor Shores and the Flex Four Pack at $50 provides admission. Each adult ticket can be used to admit four children free. Visit www.srpga.comfor tickets.


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