If you are in Knoxville today, you surely have started to hear noise about the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot, a professional golf tournament that will celebrate its 25th year in Knoxville August 11 through 17 at Fox Den Country Club.
The News Sentinel Open is part of the Web.com Tour. Owned by the PGA Tour, it is the way for a professional golfer to earn a membership card that will allow him to play on the “big” PGA Tour. And make a lot of money.
The News Sentinel announced this morning (click here) that Pilot has signed up to be a presenting sponsor of the tournament for two more years after this. This is significant because if Pilot had dropped its sponsorship — and it previously only had committed through this year — the Knoxville Open likely would have died.
Here’s why I care. Sure, watching golf is a fun way to spend a beautiful afternoon. And the hospitality tents on the golf course are fun to visit. And the exposure and spending the tournament generates are good for Knoxville.
But the most important thing to me is that it’s a great way to do business. In addition to our longtime client, Pilot, and our own company, these other Moxley Carmichael clients are sponsoring teams or participating in an even bigger way: Covenant Health, Summit Medical Group, Priority Ambulance and South College. They have found that having important clients as guests to play in a foursome for some four hours of fun and camaraderie is a wonderful way to build lasting relationships. Additionally, the tournament offers hospitality packages that provide access to the “skyboxes” — actually air-conditioned hospitality tents — set up on the golf course. And that represents another opportunity for bonding with clients all week long. That’s where you will find me, by the way. (If you’d like more information on playing in the tournament or purchasing a hospitality package, click here.)
At lunch today at Ruth’s Chris, the News Sentinel invited media in to hear about plans for this year’s tournament and meet two professional golfers involved with the tournament: 27-year-old Peter Malnati, from Dandridge, and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, 52-year-old Ben Bates from Havana, Florida. Malnati was the winner of last year’s News Sentinel Open. And Bates has played in 18 of the Knoxville tournaments, including the first one in 1990 when it was part of the Ben Hogan Tour, a predecessor of Web.com.
Malnati, whose parents moved to Dandridge from Indiana when he was a baby, told reporters that he took up golf when, at the age of 6, his neighbor took him to Dandridge Golf and Country Club to try out the sport. He never stopped. “I loved all sports,” he laughed. “But I’m slow and short and don’t jump well. So, it’s a good thing I discovered golf.” Malnati, an affable, open guy, said that he would, of course, have loved winning any tournament on the Web.com Tour. “It would have been huge to happen anywhere,” he said. “But to have it happen in Knoxville was a dream come true.”
Bates planned to fly out of Knoxville today to play in the PGA’s U.S. Senior Open.
Check out all the media coverage from today’s lunch event. Hopefully, I’ll see you at Fox Den next month!