F55F Championship Template Evolving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilson Golf Reed on the Greens
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com
September 22, 2017

Even if Freedom 55 Financial Championship organizers do not change a thing to the Highland Country Club-hosted tournament, it would remain an enormous success in 2018.

However, complacency quickly breeds failure in the sports world, so you can bet both the club and the Mackenzie Tour PGA TOUR Canada have already put the wheels in motion to stage a bigger and better tournament next September.

This year’s event September 11-17 was the third straight at Highland, following 2013-14 tourneys at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club. It has been well documented how Highland members have fully embraced the tournament. The Mackenzie Tour, title sponsor Freedom 55 Financial and the Highland tournament committee staged a highly-successful seven days this year, thanks to a strong template, new initiatives – and yes, ideal weather during the entire week.

Also this year, Golf Canada handed Highland its role in organizing the tourney. The club’s committee worked tirelessly to secure additional corporate sponsors, and to create a better fan experience. A putting contest, improved pro-am experience, 18th hole grandstands and military attending the finishing hole’s Canadian flag all contributed to the tournament’s success.

Following the leader at F55F Championship. Photo: Claus Andersen/PGA TOUR.

Thames Valley Children’s Centre received $51,950 from the tourney this year, for a three-year Highland total of more than $164,000. That alone makes this tournament an important part of our community.

But where were the fans? For most of the week, it appeared to be family, friends and Highland members, mixed with local golf fans. Sunday’s gallery of about 1,000 was down from 2016’s estimated gallery of 1,400. But last year, there wasn’t nearly the same effort put forth in promoting and planning the entire tournament week.

It is quite possible that the F55F Championship has maxed out in terms of a Sunday gallery. However, there should be no end in the quest to increase it. But it’s going to be a task tougher than a $2 steak. Here’s why.

London and area sports fans support Knights hockey, Lightning basketball, to a smaller degree Mustangs football plus one-off events like the Memorial Cup, or as we’ll see next January, the World Financial Continental Cup of Curling.

The biggest challenge the host committee faces is drawing avid golfers to Highland – they are the target audience, not the casual or non-golf fan. And with ideal weather for golfing in September, that is what most avid golfers will be doing during the tournament.

The challenge, then, rests in increasing the fan experience, promoting the event 365 days of the year, and hoping for continued good weather. And although avid golfers appreciate the calibre of play at the F55F Championship, it’s an even tougher task to market this event solely on the fact these players are just two steps away from the PGA Tour.

In an interview prior to this year’s tournament, Mackenzie Tour President Jeff Monday said, without “a Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson or Jason Day,” you can’t promote the players. But you can promote the Tour’s slogan, “Who’s Next?” For example, Hamilton’s Mackenzie Hughes, the Mackenzie Tour’s 2013 Order of Merit winner, is a PGA Tour winner.

Monday said London is the ideal home for this tournament, tied to Highland through 2019 and title sponsor Freedom 55 Financial through 2020.

“I think everybody felt like London would be the ideal market for this type of event. And you can combine that with a home base title sponsor and the unbelievable support that Freedom 55 Financial offers as the lead sponsor, and their reputation in the community, along with a passion for the sport that the people of this community have,” Monday said.

Stage the F55F Championship the same way it was earlier this month, and you can’t lose. But if you better the fan experience, and sell it to avid golfers, then you may be surprised how big the gallery may grow.

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About Wilson Golf

For a century, Wilson Golf has designed, manufactured and distributed premium and recreational golf equipment throughout the world. Since 1914, Wilson Staff irons have won 61 major championships, more than any other iron manufacturer in history. That winning tradition continues today by delivering the highest quality golf equipment to all golfers to enhance performance on the course and overall enjoyment of the game. Wilson Golf is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment by Amer Sports. Consumers can log onto wilsongolf.com or call (800) 622-0444 for more information.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989.

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