Most golf fans know that the men’s and women’s professional tours are run by completely separate organizations- the PGA Tour and the LPGA. This episode, we’re going to pull back the curtain and explore a little more on the behind the scenes of LPGA tournaments and player management on the Women’s tours.
The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.
Alyson Johnson: Tell us a little bit about what you do in your organization and in your everyday.
Leela Narang: We started out with probably one LPGA event, and our group right now operates ten tournaments- one on the Champions Tour, and nine on the LPGA Tour. On a daily basis, each individual on the team is based in those markets where the LPGA or Champions Tour is located, and we have a tournament team dedicated to each event- it’s really a year-round job for each group. Throughout the year, they’re building partnerships, selling sponsorships trying to raise money to grow each of the events, and putting together volunteers and everything that’s associated with the event. In addition to that, our group also does corporate consulting for blue chip companies, we align companies in golf; so whatever sponsorships, focuses, events that they want to do in the golf market, we work with the individual tours, hospitality programs, or Masters trips, or whatever it might be, to focus on finding out what the needs are and leveraging the golf market.
Adam Grubb: You said earlier that it’s a year-round job, and I think that’s what surprises most people about a tournament- especially if you’re running multiple tournaments- the amount of people that it takes to put on a four-day event is astronomical. And it does take a year of planning, fundraising, and organization. What do you think somebody would be most surprised by hearing when it comes to how many people and how long it takes to put on just one tournament?
Leela Narang: I would say the tournament team itself. The people who are working year round could be up to 20 people- but no 20 people could actually run an event. Whether it’s you know an executive staff or kids out of college, whatever it might be, it takes an army. The amount of acres that encompass a golf course… from television compounds, to managing the players, to hospitality suites. One of the biggest aspects of a golf tournament is the volunteers. In a PGA or LPGA tournament, you have close to a thousand volunteers. Those volunteers, while they’re volunteering for the tournament, really have to understand the nuts and bolts of their job. We have to recruit those volunteers, year-round, form committees- and then those committees manage those volunteers- and they treat this like a job, to be honest. It’s a passion of everybody’s.
So during that tournament, you have about a thousand people doing jobs to help that event become a success. While the average person might walk into a golf tournament and not notice the people carrying the standards, serving people lunch, and ushering the fans, the majority of those people are volunteers. Those are dedicated people who want to learn about the events, and they’re excited when the tournament finally rolls into town. So while the tournament staff that operates the event is on site, we depend a lot on our tournament volunteers.
Alyson Johnson: One of the things that we’ve talked about in the past on this show is the “triangle” at the tour. So, PGA Tour champ management- the staff at the tour- then their host organization, and then the sponsor that creates that tournament at each stop. In the LPGA, it’s a little bit different- you actually own these events that you run. What is that structure at the LPGA, and how is it different?
Leela Narang: There’s two different models- one is an owned event, so a company like ourselves might come in and we own the event, we own the budget, or we might manage the event; it really depends on the agreement with the title sponsor. There’s risk involved when you operate an event. Let’s just say that the event costs five million dollars to run, let’s just say that the event team doesn’t sell enough sponsorships to cover the purse, cover the hospitality, cover the event budget- then there’s a risk involved. Someone has to take that risk when you develop an event; it’s like any other budget for any corporation. Whether the management company says, “we’ll share in that risk, so we’ll take a management fee,” and the title sponsor takes that risk or a company like ourselves might say “we’ll take that risk, we’ll own the event- we have enough confidence our staff so we’ll take on the the event,” so there’s really two ways to look at it. It’s a management relationship or it’s an ownership. We do both- it really just depends on the site and the structure of how we put everything together. Either way, as the management company or the ownership company, we’re really doing the day-to-day for everything.
Listen here to the rest of the episode to learn more about player management and the shift in excitement towards the LPGA.