Mike Welch Is “The Guy”

By Jim McNaney











For 3M Open Tournament Director, Mike Welch, year two feels more like his first year running this PGA TOUR tournament.

Welch, a college baseball player at Winona State University, always knew he wanted to work in the business of sports. After spending thirteen and a half years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, the Wisconsin native changed sports and joined Hollis Cavner’s team in 2020.

What drew someone with over a decade in the NBA to run a golf tournament? Personal and professional reasons.

Professionally it was a chance to be “the guy.” As the Vice President of Corporate Partnerships with the Wolves, he ran his team, but with the 3M Open… he is involved in everything.

Personally, a better work life balance was attractive. As the father of four active boys, being able to be home for dinner or coach baseball teams was something that was not as easy to do working in the NBA.

“I thought, not only was it a great opportunity, but a chance for a lifestyle change, not having to travel 58 games with the Wolves and Lynx really was a plus, especially since we have four young boys that are growing up way to fast. My duties as Tournament Director are primarily focused on the marketing side, but this year I’ve had to learn and have tried on many different hats,” Welch commented.

Night games, occasional road trips with the team, started to become less attractive.

Living close to the TPC Twin Cities, Welch now has the family time he loves.

On the surface, the two worlds of the NBA and the PGA TOUR seem to have little in common, but in the business of sports, corporate partnerships and hospitality are everything. Where these two industries differ is in golf, hospitality is the lead asset.

“Golf is the ultimate corporate engagement sport,” said Welch. In the NBA the action on the court takes up most of the time. Partnership activation happens before or after the game or at halftime. In golf, interacting with corporate partners or fans is constant. “The golf almost becomes secondary,” Welch continued.

In 2021, the opportunity to have those engagements returns. And with all the options the 3M Open has available, there is something for everyone in attendance.

His first year at the helm was not normal. No fans and not even knowing if the tournament would be played due to the pandemic.

“This year is way more fun,” said Welch. “Year one was great to learn.”

Last year gave Welch and the rest of the staff a dry run so to speak. With no fans, the focus became on the operations and how the week would flow when fans returned. It provided an opportunity to learn which charities to work with, which vendors to use and how much time would all of these require. 

As the fans return on site, Welch is certainly looking forward to seeing how big this year can be. There is a noticeable buzz. At previous PGA TOUR events, players and operators comment week after week how much better it is to have fans back.

The fans make the product better.

The goal of tournament officials is the make the 3M Open the “event of the summer.”  That is the most common phase used in every interview. Welch’s job, with the help of his team, is to make that happen.  It could not happen without the fans.

July 19th through July 25th, the TPC Twin Cities will be the center of the Minnesota sports world.

For more information about ticket sales sponsorships and partner charities, visit 3mopen.com.

Mike Welch, 3M Open Tournament Director and Denise Rutherford, 3M’s senior vice president of corporate affairs present check to the Science Museum of Minnesota