Two weeks ago, Tiger Woods sent the golf world into a tizzy with a blistering 9-under par to finish tied for second, one shot behind eventual tournament champ Paul Casey at the Valspar Championship.
Not to be outdone, Woods would follow up that performance with another electrifying 10-under par at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and now is tied with Rory McIlroy as the betting favorite heading into the Masters later this week.
At this point, it is hard to deny that golf isn’t better when Tiger is playing, but for tournaments across the country having Tiger back in championship-caliber form means larger crowds and more preparation time.
“The preparation changed dramatically,” said Tracy West, Tournament Director for the Valspar Championship, who oversaw all of the logistics that went into making the course ready for Tiger. “He brings an incredible bump to your fan base.”
And bump it did as Innisbrook saw a 34% increase in tickets sold compared to the 2017 version of the tournament.
“We went from 112,000 last year to over 150,000 this year,” said West.
“That’s a huge attendance for us especially given the fact that our course is pretty compact. We don’t have a super wide spread layout like some of the other PGA TOUR events have.” – Tracy West
While the larger crowd is great for the bottom line and overall buzz surrounding the tournament, West and her team had only a short amount of time to make sure the course was ready to handle close to 40,000 extra fans.
“From the normal things that you would think of, meaning more restrooms, to added capacity on your website so it doesn’t crash with heightened interest in buying tickets,” said West. “We added 90 more restrooms on top of the 70 more we had already added from last year anyway knowing that we were going to have a strong field.”
Not only did they add more restrooms but they made sure they had plenty of transportation and parking available.
“We added over 40 more busses, 2 more parking lots with upwards of 6,000 spaces available,” said West. “We knew we weren’t going to need that many, but we wanted to prepare for it just in case.”
As far as the course goes, the increased crowd forced West and her team to change how the course was roped and staked. The new layout of the traffic flow for spectators even included the course staff having to build a bridge.
“We added in four more crosswalks than we normally would have just to help with spectator flow,” said West. “On one of our holes, we built a bridge. There is a stream that cuts through our 12th fairway and the existing spectator bridge that was there for the resort normally was not wide enough for his crowds.”
A feat in itself, all of this was done in less than two days, as Woods didn’t commit till the Friday before the tournament at 11:00.
The ability in which her team was able to make the changes and get the course and tournament ready was the best thing about the weekend for West.
“Everyone rallied really well given the timeframe that we had to prepare. I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s always behind the scenes a very difficult week no matter what due to the sheer size of these events. They never go perfect, but to see our team rise to this challenge of having Tiger commit and the added pressure that comes with that, I’m really proud.”
Of course West loved to see the growth in ticket sales, but the fact that Valspar and other partners were able to see immense exposure across both TV and the grounds was equally important.
“This was their fifth year as our title sponsor and they couldn’t be more pleased not only with the attention the tournament got but just the layout and the look on the course,” said West when speaking about Valspar’s relationship with the tournament. “They’re obviously very happy. They are very happy with how the event went and certainly the drama that came along with it.”
With increased interest from fans, came increased interest from sponsors, especially when it came to tickets.
“His presence really changes all of your operations.” – Tracy West on Tiger Woods playing at Innisbrook
“A lot of sponsors who had a daily suite or a weekly chalet put in a lot more ticket requests because they were getting requests from their clients,” said West.
Now that the tournament is in the rear-view mirror, West and her team have already turned to focusing on renewals, a task that might be a little bit easier this year given the success of the tournament and the ROI produced for their current stable of partners.
“We have a lot of sponsors who are under multi-year contracts, but also a lot that aren’t. The ones that are, are definitely glad they signed up for multiple years and the ones that haven’t have already been contacting us about holding their spots for next year.”
When all is said and done, and all the money has been counted, West is primarily excited about the part of the tournament that matters the most to her.
“Once all the financials are done, the uptick in the amount given to charity will really be the best part.”
So, next time you see Woods dropping in 70-foot bombs or stinging a driver down the middle of a fairway, remember the people behind-the-scenes who made sure that fans were able to enjoy the moment.