Two weeks removed from the smashing success that was the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club, Judd Silverman and his staff are full speed ahead on Phase 2 of this area's golfing summer of 2003.
Silverman, 47, the championship director for the Senior Open and the 19-year tournament director for the upcoming Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, has been wearing two hats for four years.
The Farr Classic at Highland Meadows, this year presented by AllTel, is just four weeks away, and Silverman and the Farr staff are busy with some 11th-hour scrambling to keep the LPGA event on par with its past performance.
Despite its being slowed a bit by the attention paid to the Senior Open, and by a still-sluggish economy, Silverman remains confident that the Farr Classic will again play well in the community. Annually generating $250,000 to $300,000 for children's charities, the Farr bids to surpass $4 million mark in total donations when the Aug. 11-17 event concludes.
“You've got two sides to the event - the volunteer organization and the financial side,” Silverman said. “You just tackle 'em both head on.
“This is our 19th year with the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic and you start at the top with Kroger and AllTel and all of our great sponsors. We went out and talked to them and most of them have signed back up.”
Silverman acknowledged that the corporate-sponsor sales needed to fund the event, and the total number of commitments from volunteers necessary to run the tournament, are short of the mark with a month to go.
“Financially, raising the money has been a challenge, especially with the economy,” he said. “We've got about four weeks to go and we're burning the midnight oil. We're about 80 percent of the way to our usual amount of revenue, but the last 20 percent is going to be the toughest.
“We still need volunteers and we're still recruiting volunteers, but we're in good shape. We have about 900. We need another 200. From a volunteer standpoint, I think we'll be fine.”
Volunteers for the Senior Open paid $120 to work the event, receiving a shirt, a hat and pants along with week-long grounds and pavilion privileges in exchange for three half-day work shifts. Farr volunteers pay $50 each and get a shirt and a hat and a tournament credential for their three half-day shifts.
On the plus side financially, all three Pro-Am events leading into the Farr are already sold out, and most of the targeted sponsors are on board, including Kroger, AllTel, Owens Corning, Fifth Third Bank, Key Bank, Sky Bank and National City Bank. Dana Corporation - a longtime fixture in the Toledo economy currently battling a hostile takeover bid - is still on with its celebrity shootout.
“We've sold out the Fifth Third Bank Pro-Am on Monday, the Toledo Edison/ProMedica Tuesday at Inverness, and the Owens-Corning celebrity Pro-Am is sold out,” Silverman said.
To pull off the two tournaments in one summer, it was essential that the Farr Classic be moved from its traditional position in early July.
“The first thing I did was contact the commissioner of the LPGA and ask for an August date,” Silverman said, recalling his initial move made when charged with heading up both events in 1999. “We felt it was absolutely vital that we get some space in between, five or six weeks. Luckily, the LPGA was willing to juggle their schedule.”
The staff also expanded.
“We hired three new people to work specifically on the Senior Open,” Silverman said. “Kris Rodgers (11-year Farr tournament coordinator) was our Open coordinator, Tony Bucher [a former Farr intern] was hired to be our operations manager and Heather Castle was hired as the volunteer coordinator for the Senior Open.”
Silverman said Castle benefited from working in that area with Terry Stockwell, who had spent 10 years in that capacity for the Farr Classic. Castle now takes on the Farr.
Silverman said that it is tough to project the ticket sales for the Farr, but that a reduced turnout wouldn't mean disaster.
“We've been out selling the Jamie Farr all year,” he said. “But ticket sales are a small portion of our revenues. Sponsorship sales are what generates the majority of our revenue - Pro-Am spots, sky boxes, hospitality and advertising.”
If this year's Farr Classic comes close to past performance, that would have to be considered a victory after the overwhelming support of the Senior Open.
“It's a challange to raise the money for two major sporting events within six weeks of each other, no question,” Silverman said. “I wouldn't change anything on the outcome of the U.S. Senior Open. I think, operationally, it went extremely well. From a revenue standpoint, we exceeded our original goals.”
And just how successful was the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness?
In terms of corporate hospitality and general ticket sales, attendance exceeded 157,000 here, second-most in the 24-year history of this event. Only Des Moines, Iowa in 1999 topped Toledo's support, and that state had not hosted a major tournament since 1963, according to Silverman.
Inverness outdrew larger markets from the previous three U.S. Senior Opens - Baltimore, Boston and Bethlehem, Pa., which is 45 minutes from Philadelphia.
While the final tally has yet to be determined, here are some figures to chew on: senior Open sales included 42 hospitality tents, 24 tables in the clubhouse at $30,000 apiece and 40 tables in Century Club Pavilion for $15,000 apiece. The S.P. Jermain Pavilion was expanded three times from its original plan and ultimately sold 5,000 tickets. There were 8,200 general public all-week grounds tickets sold at $125 apiece.
“I was extremely pleased with the support we received from the region,” Silverman said. “The volunteers did an unbelievable job of delivering a first-class event to the community.”
Silverman hopes the byproduct of the Senior Open success will ultimately be the USGA's granting a U.S. Open to Inverness in 2010, 2011 or shortly thereafter.
“Inverness is such a wonderful community asset and we've all got our fingers crossed that the USGA will award the community and Inverness with its fifth U.S. Open, which I feel it rightly deserves,” he said.
Silverman praised the Open's co-general chairmen, Marc Stockwell and Bob May.
“They were great leaders and they handled their areas of responsibility flawlessly,” Silverman said. You couldn't have picked two better guys for those positions, and they worked so well with our staff and our volunteer organization.”
Silverman also recognized the efforts of Farr coordinator Sandy Gilley, administrative assistant Sue Campbell and Sandy White (sales).
“It was a tremendous experience,” he said. “That will only help us as we move down the road in the future with the Jamie Farr.”