Meet The Man Behind The 3M Open-Hollis Cavner
By Joe Stansberry
Twin Cities golf fans have seen Hollis Cavner for many years driving around at TPC Twin Cities during the 3M Championship. Now that Hollis has brought the PGA TOUR to the same course for it inaugural tournament, hear what some of his thoughts are on this special new event.
How did you get your start in the golf tournament business?
I started out working in the bag rooms and working at clubs and then got hired to be a gopher at ESPN pulling cable. Finally worked my way up to become the operations director and went to work on U.S. Opens.
How many events are Pro Links Sports now running?
8 events and I am the CEO
As a former player in a few of your tournaments, I can attest to the fact that your events are second to none! Why do you think the players, both professionals and amateurs, consider your events to be “the best run?”
First, thank you for saying that. I think we try harder than anyone to over deliver not only to our players, but also our sponsors, volunteers and fans. If you do the extra little things it takes to make it good for them then everyone is having a good time and is positive about the experience. We want to be the best as a company. We have a great team of employees who are tremendous and the best in the business who live, eat and breathe being the best.
After 26 years being involved with the PGA TOUR Champions here in Minnesota, you are now bringing a PGA TOUR event here for the first time in decades. What will be the difference not only for the spectators, but for the Twin Cities?
The PGA TOUR Champions was great and I loved it, but the PGA TOUR event is roughly four times the size not only in the build out of hospitality, but in all sponsorship and ticket sales but also the television coverage that reaches over 1 billion people in 250 countries. We have 46 hours of live TV worldwide on CBS and international channels. When we had the Champions we had about 40 media cover it and now we will have 300 from around the world here. The economic impact for the state and cities is over $65 million for the week – really amazing numbers.
How long have you been trying to secure a regular PGA TOUR event here?
I have worked on this for 12 years now. Most people would have given up by now.
3M has been a great partner for this event! How long have they committed for the 3M Open?
They have been working with me on this for 12 years as title sponsor and they have committed to 7 years as title sponsor. They truly are a great company and to bring this to Minnesota after a 50 year absence of PGA TOUR golf is fantastic.
One of the great things about golf is the charities and the volunteers. Do you have an approximate grand total of charitable contributions made to the area including this year’s event?
Over the term of the 3M Championship we gave over $26 million and this year in our first year we will give over $1.5 million which is big for a first year event. We have hundreds of corporate sponsors and thousands of volunteers that make this possible.
You had a special relationship with Arnold Palmer. You’ve told me in the past that he mentored you in your early days. How were you blessed enough to have Arnold Palmer has a close personal friend and do you have a story of Arnold’s kindness that went under the radar?
I was the luckiest person in the world to have been his friend. We did family trips together and traveled together and it was unreal. He helped me in business and in life with not only advice in business, but also on how to treat people in life and how to pay it forward. My family and I were blessed to have him as our buddy. Arnold would help people behind the scenes and not want anyone to know. Every year that Arnold played here there was a loyal fan who always came to follow him. If he did not play she did not come to the event. She had a hard time getting around walking and Arnold would always make sure one of the deputies who protected him or myself would pick her up and make her ride. We all just loved this wonderful woman and took great care of her. She had never met Arnold until she started coming to watch him, but he made sure she was treated like a VIP every time. He would always look around to make sure that she was okay. That is why he was called the KING not because he won 62 times or all those majors.
Finally, you brought Tom Lehman in to tweak the golf course at TPC Twin Cities. I’ve played and love the challenging changes. Which changes do you like best and based on normal weather what do you think the winning score might be?
Tom has a tremendous design talent and did a great job. I think the changes to 2, 16 and 18 are tremendous. Who would have ever thought of building the 18th hole like that and now it is beautiful. 20 under is my best bet on the score unless there is no wind.
When you are out at the 3M Open keep your eyes open for this great gift to Minnesota golf fans. I’m sure he will have a pretty nice ‘ride’ around TPC Twin Cities this year.