12 Golf Inc. May/June 2015
have,” he said. “A big part of it has to do
with the exposure of the Tour coming
The LPGA Symetra Tour Island Resort
Championship also created increased vis-
ibility for the course and the entire Mid-
west. When it was first held at Sweetgrass
Golf Club in 2008, it was the only profes-
sional golf event in Michigan that year.
This year, the Tour is making several stops
in the region.
“The whole colony only has about
35,000 people,” Douglas said. “It’s a rarity
for the area to have something like this.”
So he knew he had to make it stick.
Sweetgrass Golf Club asked local schools,
sports teams and nonprofit organizations
to help sell tickets, and it let the organi-
zations keep the money. And rather than
giving the already-sponsored tournament
players gift bags with balls and gear, each
player receives 100 two-dollar bills.
“Travel expenses are their biggest con-
cern,” he said. “We decided on two-dollar
bills so the community can actually see
that the girls are putting money back into
Palouse Ridge Golf Club General
Manager Todd Lupkes also understands
the tests that come with operating a golf
course in a small town. But Pullman,
Wash., also happens to be a college town.
“If you look at the signs in town, it
says the population is 32,000 people, but
22,000 are students,” Lupkes said. “It’s
such a small community to begin
with. People’s perception about
how much fun they had at the golf
course or the food they had — all
those little things — gets around the
community really quickly.”
In the city of Pullman, Palouse
Ridge Golf Club stands alone. Be-
fore Washington State University
built the 18-hole championship golf
course in 2008, the city of Pullman
had one 9-hole course that was un-
prepared to host events.
“If WSU alumni wanted to do
something, they had to go some-
where else like Spokane or Seattle,”
Lupkes said. “Now that money
comes to Pullman.”
The course is hosting a lot of tourna-
ments, so much so that Lupkes simply
can’t accommodate all events.
The university-owned course was built
to host high-end prestigious events. That
goal can be checked off the list as Palouse
Ridge Golf Club hosted the Men’s Golf
Pac-12 Championship in April.
“It’s essentially set up like a mini U.S.
Open,” Lupkes said. “The course is play-
ing firm, fast and with really thick, long
rough. The regulars are eating it up.”
Of the 60 golfers playing on 12, five-
person teams, at least 15 are top 100 ama-
teur players worldwide, Lupkes said. This
along with other tournaments such as the
John Harbottle III Pro AM, a U.S. Ama-
teur Qualifier, and the CourseCo Cham-
pionship, have helped attract a spectrum
of golfers, rather than just students.
“Bringing those events to Pullman
brings a lot of prestige and pride,” Lupkes
said. “Of our 20,000 to 22,000 annual
rounds, student play is only about 7 or 8
Its management company, CourseCo,
has made hosting larger events feasible.
“If I were to call Nike and say ‘I need
120 backpacks donated for a tournament,’
they’d say ‘Who are you?,’” he said. “But
when CourseCo calls, they say, ‘Sure.’
That’s the difference.”
Randolph Golf Complex hopes a tour-
nament will save it. The Tucson golf facil-
ity is facing community efforts to expand
nearby Reid Park by converting part of the
golf course into shared-use space.
Locals’ visions of creating Tucson’s
“Central Park,” at the expense of the golf
course, have pushed General Manager
Robb Palmgren to do everything he can
to showcase the course’s positive contributions to the city.
“What we have to do first is change peo-
ple’s perception of the course,” Palmgren
said. “We want it to be a positive reflection
[of the city of Tucson).”
Step one was fixing up the courses, an
effort that started when the city stepped
down as operator and hired OB Sports to
run its five golf facilities in February 2014.
“OB Sports came in and started cleaning up the courses, adding brand new golf
carts, repainting the buildings and providing better customer service,” Palmgren
Step two was ramping up Tucson City
Golf’s 2015 men’s amateur tour, held over
two weekends in April and May.
“The Tucson City amateur tournament
[provided the perfect stage] to prove to
the Tucson community that the courses
are back and better than ever,” Palmgren
The tournament attracted 120 entries
this year, the most ever.
“In the past, the entry fee didn’t really
give players anything besides getting to
play,” Palmgren said. “Now they get food
each day, a gift card for signing up and a
luncheon at Randolph. We changed it to
offer more with each entry and [with all
of the improvements], we can charge a bit
more as it’s a much better value.”
Is it enough to save Randolph Golf
Complex? Only time and local politics
Sweetgrass Golf Club asked nonprofit
organizations and local schools to sell
tickets and allowed them to keep all of