5 things I learned starting a PGA Tour event from scratch (hint: it’s really hard work)
This interview was conducted by GOLF columnist Paul Sullivan. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Bermuda has been good to P.H. Horgan III. Three of the pro golfer’s seven professional wins came on the island. Now, Horgan, 59, is looking to give back to the country he first visited with his parents when he was growing up in Rhode Island. After more than a decade of back and forth, Horgan is set to realize a long-held dream: bringing a PGA Tour event to Bermuda.
“It’s such a special place with its natural beauty but also its proximity to the East Coast,” he said.
This week, the island nation will host a full-field event for the inaugural Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course, which was designed by Robert Trent Jones. The country has signed a five-year deal with the PGA Tour to host the tournament.
Horgan, who turned pro in 1984 and still has provisional status on the PGA Tour Champions, is the executive director of the tournament. He spoke with GOLF.com about the fun and frustrations of creating a brand-new PGA Tour event with little time to plan it — and a hurricane to contend with.
1. When dates free up on the Tour calendar, you best be ready to pounce
“After playing all these events in my 20s and 30s, I said Bermuda would be a great place to host a Tour event, be it a Champions or PGA Tour event. Around 2011, I brought the minister of sport and the minister of tourism to the PGA Show in Orlando. We started a conversation about a Champions tour event. Three years ago one of my good friends on the island, Zane DeSilva [the minister of labor, community affairs and sport], said I think this is a good time to take a look at it. He has been pushing this on the government side. From the players’ side, I was constantly trying to encourage Bermuda to try to host an event. The Bermuda Tourism Authority saw the value, and they bought into this event. We got a good feeling about it happening in June when a date opened up on the schedule. The Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss., got a new date and the Tour needed to fill the spot. Good on Bermuda for taking the chance to go after this, because rarely do dates on the schedule open up.
2. Mother Nature doesn’t care what you’re trying to plan
“We had so little time to get the tournament going. We started on July 7. We had a real short runway. Most PGA Tour events have 14 months to get ready. But the Bermuda government and the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and this golf course itself, have done a Herculean effort to make this commitment happen. The course was totally brought back to life after Humberto [a category-three hurricane]. It took down 40 trees and littered debris everywhere in September. Besides the hurricane we had 88 bunkers we were redoing. It set us back on that project. We had to get the course back up and running. We were so close to having to postpone the event. As a player, I’m beginning to realize now some of what happens on the operational side and how much work goes on outside the ropes.”
3. Organizing an event? Hard. Organizing an event on an island? Really hard.
“They had the PGA Grand Slam here, with the four major winners, but that was last held in 2014. That was totally different. This is a full-field event, with 120 players and 120 caddies, and player entourages and family and friends. This is a major undertaking for this small island. We’ve had to have everything shipped in. We’ve brought in trailers to store equipment. We have a volunteer component as well — some 600 volunteers who need to be brought in. It’s a major undertaking. The Tour, to their credit, has incredible guidelines that every event has to adhere to. But this is not like setting up an event in Miami.
4. Sponsors are essential but they’re not easy to lock down
“The hardest part from a sales side has been trying to get sponsors onboard, besides The Bermuda Tourism Authority. We worked really hard to reach out to the business community on the island. This year the Bermuda Tourism Authority is the title sponsor. Because we had such a short time it was hard to find other sponsors. We’re confident that in 2020 we’ll have more sponsors. The PGA Tour is helping us too. They’ve been very helpful in the first year to help us get off on the right foot here. We still have a lot to do on the sales side, but now we have a year leading up to the next event to find a partner to co-title it. This has been a real challenge the first year, but I’m sure all events go up against that on year one. This could not have happened without the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the support of the government.
5. Just because you build it doesn’t mean the players will necessarily come
“These players are all independent contractors so each week they can decide what event they want to play in. We’ve reached out to players. We have someone helping us at Tour events talking up the event — come to the inaugural event, it’s going to be great! I think the players have to get here first to see how beautiful Bermuda is and then they’ll come back on their own after experiencing the island. But that’s the challenging part, to get the players. We’re not going to get the top names this year but hopefully down the road we will. We have 15 hours of live prime-time coverage, and it’s really a 15-hour infomercial for Bermuda. It’s a magnificent, championship golf course. The telecast will speak for itself.”