PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

No tournaments means no jobs for the workers who operate them

May 05, 2020

I’ve essentially been on a self-imposed “lockdown” since March 12, the day our team traveled back from the Players Championship. That was a surreal time to be in Ponte Vedra Beach, and it became more surreal in the days after when the sports world began postponing their seasons and events and shutting down. In some ways, I’m not sure I’ve come to grips with what has happened. How did we get to this point? And how did it happen so quickly?

In Chicago where I live, we’ve been shelter-in-place since March 20. I’m accustomed to working from a home office. For me and our team and what we need to do in our jobs—producing professional golf tournaments and other events worldwide—it’s not a huge change. I’m spending chunks of time on the computer, phone, video calls and such. I’m cooking a bit more, having a weekly grill session or two. I have family in the area, but I live by myself.

I have a decent routine and have been productive so far, but the tournament schedule is such a moving target, even with the PGA Tour coming out with the revamped schedule starting in June. In my job, I’m used to planning well in advance, a year out in many cases. Now? I do the best I can with the information at hand, go day-to-day and adjust accordingly. I can’t deny that I’m having a few sleepless nights.

What is extraordinary to me is not being on the road—flying to a meeting, a site visit, a tournament or a work project. It’s coming up on seven weeks now. I can’t recall in the past 20-plus years of having stayed in Chicago for such a sustained period. I’ve been on-site at a project for up to six months at a time, but to be home for seven weeks in a row is just, well, different.

We were lucky to have produced some tournaments before March, which helped the bottom line, but we’ve seen some important tournaments postponed, including the 2020 Olympics, where we were scheduled to help operate the men’s and women’s golf events. We were pumped to go to Tokyo, and now we have to wait until 2021. We just took a few more hits with the cancellation of the Barbasol Championship on the PGA Tour and the REX Hospital Open on the Korn Ferry Tour. Extremely disappointed, but we keep it in perspective of the world today, so we get it.

I’m concerned for our team, which number 25 people. Many of them have been with us for more than 10 years. We’re like a family, so it brings on real stress to think about how we can move forward and make sure everyone is being taken care of. So far, we haven’t had to let anyone go. Our morale is still pretty good. The members of our team are creatures of habit. We thrive on timelines and deadlines. We all need to be moving. Living. We love the run-up to a tournament: the planning, the building, the execution, and finally—game day. There’s a real adrenaline rush. No joke, it feels like a competition, and during a tournament week, we are right in the middle of it. I miss that. I know we all do.

We’ve applied for assistance via the CARES Act (Caronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security bill). That was a week of work, compiling information and speaking with our financial team and banks. The rest of the year, that’s all to be determined. We’re trying to maintain a strong team, a strong bench, so that when we do bounce out of this, we’re ready to go at our existing projects. We need to be ready to pursue any new opportunities that might arise within the special-event landscape, in golf and outside of golf, too.

Uncertainty, that’s the hard part. Even with the PGA Tour’s revised schedule, it’s all written in sand, isn’t it? Like I said, day-to-day, keep at it and stay positive. Even as I remain guardedly optimistic, it makes me wonder what’s ahead. —with Dave Shedloski

Jeff Raedle is president of Global Golf Management based in Chicago.