Businesses and volunteers come together to support Web.com tournament
BY CATHERINE O’CONNOR
Kate Peters of Bruno Event Team, who is the executive director of the Lincoln Land Championship Presented by LRS, wants businesses of all sizes to think creatively about how they can leverage the power of relationships by supporting the only PGA-sanctioned golf tournament in downstate Illinois and the greater metro area.
Since 2016, the Web.com event held at Springfield’s Panther Creek Country Club has provided a great opportunity for professionals seeking to secure their PGA Tour card, spectators and business leaders whose involvement allows them to watch these players grow. It’s a full-time job for Peters to strategize, plan and manage the logistics of the tournament, with a large portion of her time devoted to the financial aspects of the week-long event, which will be held from June 10-16 this year.
“I want our community to understand the economic impact of this event, which was $6 million in 2018. We don’t want it to go away, and that’s why we need to involve everyone in supporting this tournament,” said Peters.
Headquartered in Springfield, Levi, Ray & Shoup (LRS) has become the tournament’s presenting sponsor, joining with area businesses including Landmark Cadillac, CEFCU, Country Financial and Brandt Consolidated. Hundreds of volunteers assist as marshals, with hospitality, ecology, as standard bearers, announcers, scorers and many other functions that enhance the experience for players, spectators and all of those who support the event.
According to Greg Matthews, whose father-in-law, Dick Levi, is the company founder, LRS had a long-standing relationship with previous golf events including the LPGA Rail Tournament.
“LRS prides itself on being part of events like this that give back so much to the community,” Matthews said.
Matthews said many LRS employees and their families share a true interest in golf, and the decision to give generous support is not based on an anticipated return on investment. According to Matthews, the decision makes sense because “Web.com is a family event and LRS is a family company.”
“For us, it’s about being connected to local events and our hometown, as a loyal company that has strong roots and cares about giving back to the community that has supported them for almost 40 years.”
On Monday of tournament week, LRS hosts a corporate Pro-Am, which pairs tour players with LRS’s invited clients. “It has been exciting for us to be close enough to meet and watch some notable players as their careers have progressed onward to the PGA Tour,” said Matthews.
On Wednesday of tournament week, LRS sponsors the official Pro-Am, which pairs teams of amateurs with professional players. According to Peters, there are a handful of positions still available for those who would like to participate in the 2019 Pro-Am.
During tournament play, LRS hosts the “Birdie Club” on the 17th hole of the course, where they entertain clients and partners during tournament play, but primarily look forward to creating an atmosphere for guests, employees and their families to enjoy the experience. “During last year’s tournament, we had a local radio station personality announce each player as they approached, while the LRS family cheered and we offered prizes and celebrations for each birdie, par-save, etc.” explained Matthews.
While Peters is still recruiting a title sponsor who would provide substantial support, much of her time is spent negotiating custom sponsorship packages at all financial levels from corporate sponsorships to community partnerships, which can include branding, hospitality, advertising and a broad range of involvement, based on the budget and benefit desires of the sponsor.
Local nonprofits will benefit from the event as well. Proceeds from ticket sales will be shared by local charities which apply to be accepted as a “Charity Chip-In” partner.
A new event this year is the “Thrive Hive Digital Coffee Break,” on Tuesday, June 11 at 10 a.m. The event, which helps the tournament tap into new audiences, will provide an opportunity for small businesses to learn about digital marketing and improve their Google rankings, as well as meet-and- greet Web.com Tour players. There is no cost to attend, but RSVPs are required, due to limited seating.
As part of a partnership with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Land Championship will be hosting an “After Hours” event in the Landmark Cadillac Club on Thursday evening, June 13.
Other special events and participation opportunities that Peters has planned include recognition for veterans as well as a special junior event, sponsored in cooperation with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and CEFCU, where dozens of kids will have the opportunity to walk nine holes with a pro player, carry a tour bag and take part in an instructive session.