Secret to Senior Success
Something That Money Can't Buy
While playing the final round of the Bruno's Memorial Classic this April, Hale Irwin walked off the 18th green at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, looked at a portion of the enormous crowd of 35,000 fans and said to tournament director Gene Hallman, "My God, this is like Woodstock." Said Hallman, "I hope you weren't there, too."
Wildly successful tournaments such as the Bruno's—my pick as the best stop on the Senior tour (chart, right)—last week's 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn., and this week's Novell Utah Showdown in Park City belie reports of the tour's demise, and they have one thing in common: a tournament director who knows how to attract a good field. That doesn't mean throwing dollars at the players. "When we started, in 1992, some of the big names still needed the money," Hallman says. "Now even the middle-tier names don't."
Instead, the players come for the perks. At the Bruno's, players are offered free laundry and a prescription service, and a barber is on duty in the locker room. Contestants are even provided preaddressed, stamped envelopes for thank-you notes to their pro-am partners. "We try to make it easy," Hallman says.
The 3M Championship, at the new TPC of the Twin Cities, is run by Hollis Cavner, a 45-year-old whose company, ProLinks Spoils, also operates Senior stops in Lutz, Fla. ( Verizon Classic), Concord, Mass. (Fleet Boston Classic), West Des Moines, Iowa ( Allianz Championship) and San Antonio (SBC Championship). He fills the 3M week with fun activities, like a fishing tournament in which the golfers are given helpful hints by anglers from the Minnesota Pro/Am Bass Tour. Last year Cavner gave each player a fly rod and reel so the golfer would be ready in two weeks when the tour stopped near one of the world's best trout streams, in the Wasatch Mountains.
Getting on the wives' good side can also be critical to a tournament's success. The Verizon Classic sends spouses to a spa. The Bruno's has wives' luncheons with speakers that have included Barbara Bush, Kate Jackson and Wynonna Judd. The Toshiba Classic is blessed with a fashion mall next door. "If you make sure the wives have a great time, the players will come back," Cavner says. Hallman remembers asking Leonard Thompson earlier this year if he planned to come to the Bruno's. "My wife's coming," Thompson said, "so I guess I might as well too."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]