In May, I had the pleasure of spending the week at the Wells Fargo Championship (WFC) at TPC Potomac in Potomac, Maryland.
My background is in sports marketing and I spent the better part of two decades working for a MLB team. Since branching out on my own, I haven’t focused exclusively on working in sports; however, with my network and experience, I’ve found myself back in that arena many times, working with clients in MLB and MiLB, the NBA, NFL, NCAA and the PGA TOUR in a variety of different capacities.
Although I love most sports, as I’m sure you are well aware by now, golf is my passion and the only one that I can actually play, so for me, having the opportunity to work with a PGA TOUR event was an incredible treat.
At the WFC, I was brought on board to augment the tournament’s social media team; most people think that professional sports organizations have large staffs, but I can assure you that is the exception rather than the rule. More commonly, you’ll have a smaller staff with each member taking on multiple roles and responsibilities, especially when it comes to PGA TOUR events which, most people don’t realize, operate as nonprofits.
For example, WFC serves as the principal fundraiser for Champions for Education, a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation based in Charlotte, North Carolina that supports local and regional charitable organizations.
Speaking of Charlotte, the WFC is typically held there at Quail Hollow Club each year; however, because the Presidents Cup will be playing at their home course this fall, the WFC was relocated to the Washington, D.C. area. Thus, the tournament was presented with an interesting challenge from a ticket sales and marketing perspective. We had to raise awareness of our presence in the area and engage new fans, but also keep Charlotte fans engaged since the WFC will return to Quail Hollow in 2023.
I started working with the WFC team and the team at Wells Fargo last fall on strategy and content ideas leading up to the event, but when I arrived at TPC Potomac the Sunday before tournament week, it was my first time meeting my new co-workers in person and seeing the course. Luckily, I had two days where the course was closed to the public (aside from a Pro-Am and special events) to get the lay of the land. I was able to roam around and get a jump start on capturing the content that we had planned.
On Wednesday, the course opened to the public for another Pro-Am and practice and, working with long-time golf photographer Stan Badz, we were able to get some great crowd shots. Luckily we got some beautiful photos on that day because, for much of the rest of the week, unfortunately the D.C. area was plagued by driving, steady rain and cool temperatures.
Thanks to the amazing grounds crew staff, the course was maintained and play was able to continue without delay, but the weather still made for challenging conditions for the pros whose scores rose as the temps dropped, and the faithful fans who bundled and umbrella’ed up.
However, it did make for an interesting story to tell on social media and, from the commentary I read, many fans actually found a tournament of this nature more compelling to watch. It’s easy, they said, to golf in near-perfect conditions like you often see week in and week out on the PGA TOUR, but to see how players have to change their strategy or even struggle a bit in the conditions seemed to make the pros just a little more relatable.
From a content perspective, I was happy with what we were able to produce and also, learned a lot. From planned items such as #CupCam and a twist on “What’s in the Bag” to capturing heart-warming fan interactions such as this and covering the actual play, I found that golf social media definitely presents its own unique challenges!
First, the hours were long. I thought baseball was challenging, but wow; I was in awe of how much time the staff put in at the course. We would get there before sunrise, spend the whole day running around, and then head back to the laptop after sunset to finally catch up on things… only to get up and do it all over again for seven days straight.
There’s also no time to workout during a tournament, but that’s okay because you’ll be getting your steps in. Even with access to a golf cart, I put in 5-10 miles easily each day.
Next, there’s no team to cover; rather, there are 156 different players to get to know. And they don’t wear jerseys with their names on the back, so until you get to know them, it’s tough to figure out who is who, especially from a distance. Plus, they’re all spread out over a huge footprint, so good luck trying to be in five places at once or track down someone specific! In addition, because of the cut, some content you may have captured earlier in the week may not get to see the light of day if you gamble and hold it for the weekend.
Another thing that really stood out to me was how I felt when it was all over. There was the same adrenaline high of capturing content with the winner as you feel after a locker room champagne celebration, but with golf, you’re not as personally invested. You’re not happy to be moving on to the next round of the playoffs, or sad because your team was eliminated.
Working for a tournament, it doesn’t matter who wins; you’re happy for the individual and also relieved that the event you have worked so long and hard to plan has (hopefully) gone off without a hitch. You’re toasting the winner and celebrating the end of a successful event; looking forward to getting a bit of rest before starting to do it all over again for the next year.
I am grateful to have played a small role in helping the amazing team at the WFC. They are all deserving of a trophy! Rain or shine, they put on a spectacular event for the folks in D.C. and I know Charlotte can’t wait to welcome them home.