United States team players, from left, Pat Hurst, Julie Inkster and Wendy Ward admire the Solheim cup after their victory over the European Solheim Cup at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2002. (AP Photo/Janet Hostetter)
Becky Newell is aware that in one month, all eyes of the golf world will be focused on Colorado.
As the tournament director of one of the world’s premier international women’s golf events, she spends each morning reviewing a timeline that charts what needs to be done that day, and every day brings her and her staff a day closer to the start of the Solheim Cup.
Newell, a 1979 graduate of Maumee High School, oversees the match-play tournament that pits golfers from the LPGA against the Ladies European Tour. The Solheim Cup is staged every two years, and a United States course hosts the event once every four years.
The Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., will host this year’s tournament Aug. 13-18 and from her home base in Fort Collins, Colo., Newell balances her responsibilities as the tournament director. She coordinates 1,500 volunteers for the three-day tournament, is in charge of Solheim Cup operations at the Colorado Golf Club, and oversees the tournament’s sponsorships and online ticket sales.
Newell’s start in sports administration came in 1989, when she was a teacher at Maumee Valley Country Day School and first volunteered for what was then known as the LPGA’s Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.
“Sometimes I have a hard time explaining a tournament director’s role, but what I like is how I came up through the ranks,” said Newell, a 1983 Bowling Green State University graduate. “You understand the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into a golf tournament. And there aren’t many women who are tournament directors. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been put in this position.”
Newell’s work with the Farr tournament — now known as the Marathon Classic — became a springboard into her career in sports administration.
Newell worked with the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in Atlanta from 1995 to 2006 and after working with Octagon as a consultant for an LPGA Tour event in China in 2007, she oversaw three LPGA tournaments from 2007 to 2010 with sports and entertainment management firm IMG: the Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika [former LPGA champion Annika Sorenstam] and LPGA Tour Championships in Texas and Florida.
“She’s totally passionate about the LPGA, and she always has been,” said Judd Silverman, the Marathon Classic tournament director. “This is a perfect fit for her, and it’s a big undertaking. The Solheim Cup is only going to be there one time and she wants to make this a success.”
The art and science of running a successful tournament, Newell found, came down to customer service. She learned that each event wasn’t just about the world-class golfers who competed. Each tournament also was about the people who bought tickets, the sponsors who gave money, and the volunteers who invested their own time to work.
Having the experience as a volunteer gave Newell a sense of professional empathy and a better understanding of how it lent itself to customer service, an aspect that Newell considers paramount in overseeing a major golf tournament.
“Coming from that grassroots start, volunteers really help you with the success of a tournament,” Newell said. “I knew what it was like when a volunteer would bring something up to me and I could remember thinking to myself, ‘OK, I remember what that was like.’ Being able to have been there and to experience things, and to see what you’ve learned over the years, you understand the customer service thing. How do we make someone happy or make something right, before things really fester?”
Now weeks before the start of the tournament, Newell’s objective is to look at the big picture.
“The challenge is to make sure we give our players what they deserve, and that we deliver a world-class event for players, spectators, sponsors, and volunteers,” Newell said. “This is the largest international women’s team event in golf.”