Brian Allee-Walsh of the New Orleans Times-Picayune sits down for a Q&A with Commissioner Tim Finchem.
Q: A local business leader said your decision to bring upwards of 50 corporate leaders to New Orleans to participate in Monday's economic forum will be the "most powerful thing to happen in our city this spring." What is your response?Oh some crafty editor inserted that (with) after the dreaded interface word. Somehow I think he really did mean to say "interface our customers." Just sounds so much more MBAish, don't you think?
A: It's a nice comment. I don't know powerful it will be. It should be helpful, because what we're trying to do is get the positive side of the equation in front of the corporate community and get them thinking about business, not just tourism, but business in general. We thought the best contribution we could make along that line was to interface (with) our customers. We have a broad range of companies that are involved in our tour. We want to bring those companies in and let them hear first-hand from the city, state and the feds about the future of New Orleans and why people are optimistic.
Q: How did the idea hatch?I know, I know, I was worried too. Platform has been on the sidelines for some time now, but it's back. Well, "kind of."
A: It goes back to last fall when our golf course was damaged and we had to move our tournament. We were trying to figure out a way to get things moving on our tournament. Then the community down there was telling us that there were some struggles with other sports and wanted us to be the first major televised sporting event to happen in post-Katrina. That was when we decided to move our Commissioner's Cup competition, where we invite all CEOs of our sponsoring companies to New Orleans. The idea to is to combine that with this message and use it kind of as a platform.
Of course, on the telecast that weekend we'll be trying to weave in some of the messaging that comes out of those meetings. We have a TPC club presence there and a longtime tournament history. So we're obviously about the community and it just made sense to try to help out.Weave in the messaging that comes out of those meetings. Let me set my TiVo now.
Q: How much did your business interruption insurance play into the decision for the PGA Tour not to reopen the TPC of Louisiana for a year after the storm?Oops! Where did that little cut slider come from!? Sorry I interrupted...
A: I don't know the details on that.
I don't think it was hugely significant. It was a combination of things. A lot of our employees got spread around. It had something to do with some of the work that had to be done on the golf course. Once we determined that we weren't going to be prepared to play the tournament there, and we were moving the tournament, that sort of took away the necessity to get the golf course ready that quickly. So there were a number of factors. I can't really speak to the extent to which the insurance-related matter figured into it. It may have had some impact.Given that most players hate the course, were you hoping it was completely destroyed? Oh sorry...
Q: Are you hopeful that the golfers will take time to tour the devastation for themselves?Uh, am I missing something here? What's interesting about the spouses tagging along?
A: I think they will. Interestingly, we've invited spouses with our corporate guests. Particularly in a situation like this you wouldn't see a fairly good turnout of spouses because it's partly a golf event. But a lot of spouses are coming because there is this interest in terms of where New Orleans is and what has happened. There's that side of it.
Q: You must be proud of the PGA Tour players' relief efforts and fund-raising work the past eight months, specifically the three Louisiana pros, Kelly Gibson, David Toms and Hal Sutton. Do you anticipate the contributions of your players increasing during the week of the tournament?Sheesh, relax, it was just an innocent question!
A: I can't speak to that. I don't want to assume anything. The players have families at home and they give an awful lot themselves for charities around the country. Our tournaments raised over $90 million last year for well-deserving charities. The players themselves raised over $25 million in fund-raisers around the country. People need to recognize that they do an awful lot. Whatever we're doing in New Orleans is just an extension of that. But it's also important to recognize that there are hundreds of thousands of people around the country who are impacted by what players do and what tournaments do.
Q: As you look long-term at the FedEx Cup Championship Series, what is your vision? Are you looking at this as a Final Four or Super Bowl environment?
A: The PGA Tour FedEx Cup Championship Series, those last four weeks, it's unheard of in this sport to have all the best players playing head-to-head in the same field week after week after week. It just doesn't happen. There is a question of stamina. There will be a lot of movement after these players are seeded. They'll be seeded after the first part of the season and when they go into the playoffs they'll be seeded again. It has a tremendously exciting potential to elevate a consistent relevance with the fans and will give the media a lot of things to focus on and continue to raise the profile of the sport. I'm very optimistic about what can happen. Now we have to execute and we have a lot of work to do to bring this on next year. I'm very bullish on it.
He's bullish! The part about players being seeded after the first part of the season is interesting.
And I don't know what this next answer means:
Q: Are you concerned that you might lose some elite international players who might be involved in the European Tour at that time of the year?If this doesn't make you laugh out loud, I don't know what will...
A: Not really. It may be that a particular player who's also playing the European Tour and isn't very highly seeded, he might not play in the FedEx Cup Championship Series. Mathematically, everybody has a shot and there's a lot at stake here. Each of these tournaments in and of themselves is going to be a big tournament. So you add it all up, I've got to believe virtually everybody is going to be playing.
Q: Is there one accomplishment you're most proud of during your tenure?See, I told you it was funny. Continue...
A: It's a very simple one. I'm most pleased that we've developed and continued a history of a close working relationship between the people who work at the Tour and the players.
That's fundamental. I think we've done a much better job of working closely with our tournaments and represent our volunteers out there on the charity side. There are a lot of specific things I'm pleased that we've done. It's like anything else in business, you can't move away from the fundamentals. There are things that might have more notoriety and have a little bit more flash that are great, but in this sport it's very important to have these working relationships. We have a great team here.