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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

Chris Garrett - Golf Nomad Has Found His Niche With The Solheim Cup
Chris and Team USA Caption Juli Inkster at the 2015 Solheim Cup in Germany.
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Chris and Team USA Caption Juli Inkster at the 2015 Solheim Cup in Germany.
Chris and Kim Garrett at the 2015 Solheim Cup in Germany.
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Chris and Kim Garrett at the 2015 Solheim Cup in Germany.
By R.J. Smiley

For the past 25 years Chris Garrett has been running golf events. The native of Chester, California attended the University of Michigan where he earned a degree in sports management and communications. With school behind him, Chris found a job as an intern for the Michigan Section of the PGA. During that brief experience Chris learned firsthand the ins and outs of golf tournament management. He quickly learned to organize and prioritize. With that experience, Chris became contract tournament manager - a hired gun. Chris saw a lot of the country, in one-year time segments.

For the past six years Chris has worked for the LPGA. He worked in Phoenix as Tournament Director for the LPGA's Founders Cup event before moving his family to Des Moines four years ago to become Tournament Director for the 2017 Solheim Cup,

Chris gave Tee Times (and this writer) a crash course in professional golf tournament management. Let's call it Golf Tournament Ownership #101. Somebody owns every professional golf tournament. Meaning that entity, individual or organization, that owns the event must either run the tournament or hire some individual or management group to run it for them. (The LPGA owns five tournaments. The Solheim Cup is one. The PGA owns 12 or 13, and the Ryder Cup is their biggest event.) The owners cover all expenses incurred during the tournament. If the event does not cover expenses the owner must pay those losses. If the tournament is profitable, the owner is free to distribute the proceeds to charity or pay bonuses to management, or a combination of both. During the lean years, after the real estate bubble burst, the LPGA was down to only 23 tournaments. Sponsors were very hard to find.

Prior to taking the job with the LPGA, Chris was living in Mexico in what he called "the perfect life." He was working with Lorena Ochoa as Tournament Director of her golf tournament. "I loved living in Mexico. The people are wonderful and the weather is great," said Chris. "But when the LPGA called, I felt like I had to go. An opportunity like this seldom comes along."

Chris and his wife, Kim, and three children ages 10 through 18 love living in Des Moines. "Des Moines is the perfect size. It is large enough where there is plenty to do, but small enough that people are really friendly and easy to get to know. The kids love it and the schools are great."

When Chris was asked what part of his job as Tournament Director he liked the best, his answer came quickly, "I love working with Team Captain Juli Inkster. Juli and I have been friends for over 20 years. That friendship has grown over the years. She was, and still is, a great player on the LPGA Tour and I was involved with tournament management at many of those events. With the Solheim Cup, we work really well together. The LPGA gives Juli a budget for her team. The budget includes travel, guest appearances; team uniforms... a variety of things. She understands the budget for Team USA and she stays within that budget. But she knows, if something important comes up, I will find a way to accommodate her needs."

Chris went on to explain that his and Kim's relationship with Juli has gone beyond business. "We are personal friends with Juli and her family. We are going to Palm Springs later this spring as guests at Juli's home."

On the subject of budget, Chris went on to explain that part of his job is working with LET (Ladies European Tour) coordinating all Team Europe activities while they are in the USA and traveling back and forth. The LPGA, as host of the Solheim Cup every four years, has a large budget that pays all travel related expenses for Team Europe. When Team USA travels to Gleneagles in Scotland for the 2019 Solheim Cup, the LET will provide a budget for our team.

An entertainment event like the Solheim Cup has a million details that must be dealt with on a daily basis, but the biggest job of the Tournament Director is sales and marketing. Chris explains, "If the people don't come - the event will be a failure! Our sales people are continually on the lookout for groups and companies that could benefit from participation in the Solheim Cup." Experience has taught Chris and his staff that inviting special clients or guests to participate in the variety of Solheim Cup activities and hospitality tents can reap future business benefits. "Attending a golf tournament as a guest in a hospitality tent is much more than just watching a golf tournament. It is a social experience where you can spend time getting to know people. No schedule! For most golf fans the opportunity to be up close with a front row seat at the Solheim Cup is a once in a lifetime experience. That experience will be cherished forever." The sales and marketing team at the Solheim Cup have reserved about 50 of the 60 hospitality tents. "We still have room for a few more corporations that want to do something nice for their customers. We can custom tailor a package that is perfect for any group. We have a variety of activities including golf options. The prices start at $5,000 and go up from there. With the Minnesota Ryder Cup a vivid memory, we like to stress our price point. We feel that women's golf and the Solheim Cup offers much more bang for the buck."

Chris expects a total of 175,000 people to attend the Solheim Cup Matches. (The record is 125,000.) "I just returned from the Phoenix Open. It is a great golf party. At the Solheim Cup we create that same thing. We have the most fun first tee in golf. There are large bleachers with music. That music creates a party atmosphere to get everybody going before the first shot is hit. And speaking of music and a party atmosphere, the Solheim Cup is having a country music concert both Friday and Saturday nights. We have Jake Owen one night and Rascal Flatts the other. They are ready go. It is going to be a party!"

When asked about food and beverage Chris told me that the Solheim Cup has a contract with Prom Catering, a Minnesota company. Prom has had a contract with LPGA since 2005. They also provided food and beverage for the 1999 Senior Open at Des Moines G&CC. "They know what they are doing."

"We have about 180 days to go and the pace is picking up. If your readers are interested in tickets or corporate hospitality they can find information at www.solheimcupusa.com."

Chris's nomadic life style continues when the 2017 edition of the Solheim Cup comes to an end. "In January I will be off to Toledo and the Inverness Club site of the 2021 Solheim Cup. The family will make the transition gradually. I plan to spend a week in Toledo and a week in Des Moines for most of the year. Then we will move our family. Kim, who loves her job, hates to move. But the real problem is going to be moving the kids. Des Moines is their home. They really love it here."

In August when the two teams of the greatest women golfers in the world tee it up at the Solheim Cup with the music and the pageantry, think of the behind the scenes Tournament Director who directed this huge orchestra. The only thing the nomad Tournament Director does not control is the weather.

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