Joe Suarez is a recent graduate of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., with a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Political Science. He shares his experiences at the Champions Tour's stop at TPC Twin Cities.
The 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn., entered its twentieth year on the Champions Tour and is one of the biggest tournaments on the schedule. From July 31-Aug. 2, I had a unique opportunity to learn about pre-tournament setup and organization leading up to the tournament days on Aug. 3-5.
Tuesday, July 31
6:30 p.m. -- Pro-Am Draw Party
The main event of the night was the Pro-Am Draw Party located off the 18th hole in a massive tent at TPC Twin Cities. There at the Draw Party, I was able to meet employees of 3M and companies in the sports industry, along with Champions Tour professionals.
Lanny and I had a lot in common, growing up in the same hometown of Richmond, Va. We also talked about mutual friends from Richmond that we know.
Wednesday, Aug. 1
8:15 a.m. -- Allegheny Sports Medicine trailer
The first place I visited on-site was the Allegheny Sports Medicine trailer. I met with one of the athletic trainers who gave a tour of the trailer where players can workout and stretch before heading out to play. The trailers are also staffed by professional physical therapists and chiropractors who assist players in rehabilitative and preventive care.
9:15 a.m. -- Rules Overview
After breakfast in Player Dining in the clubhouse, I went to the Rules trailer to meet with Jim Witherspoon, one of the on-site rules officials. Jim took me around the course in a cart and shared with me his duties on-site.
During tournament rounds, Jim mentioned that he would linger in the wooded areas, particularly those that divide holes on either side. He explained hiding in the woods not only prevents bothering players with his radio, but also random spectators that "ask questions about rules, but already know the answer to them."
10:00 a.m. -- Communications Overview
I went to the Media Center near the 18th hole and clubhouse. Its location was perfect for media correspondents and officials to talk to players for post-round interviews. I met with Phil Stambaugh, one of the media officials, for an overview of what goes on in the Media Center in preparation for the tournament and during tournament rounds.
After a tour of the Media Center, Phil and I went to the players' locker room for quick interviews with players. In lieu of the Summer Olympic Games in London, we wanted to know what some of players' favorite Summer Olympic Games moments were for a story.
One of the funniest responses came from Rod Spittle, who is a Canadian native. Spittle replied by saying that his favorite Summer Olympic moment is waiting for the Winter Olympic games to start referring that Canadians mostly thrive in the winter sports.
Just before lunch, there was a short pre-tournament interview session for Kirk Triplett in the Media Center.
1:00 p.m. -- Player Relations overview
The afternoon consisted mostly of riding around the course with Jimmy Gabrielsen, Vice President of Player Relations and Administration for the Champions Tour.
During the afternoon cruise, I got a chance to meet more players on the Champions Tour. On one of the holes, Jimmy and I stopped to talk to Brad Faxon. After Brad had split the middle of the fairway on his drive, I took the opportunity to take a quick picture with him for proof that I was actually at a Champions Tour event.
4 p.m. -- Free time
Before the end of the day, I had a little bit of free time to soak in my experience in Minnesota. I took one of the carts for TOUR staff and went out to see the final three holes of TPC Twin Cities.
I also stopped by the driving range to watch some of the pros hit balls. There I got to meet Jeff Sluman and his caddie. His caddie asked what college I go to, and I was glad to tell him I recently graduated from Christopher Newport University. After saying he had not heard of CNU, he asked what sports are the most popular ones, in which I gave a shout out to men's soccer and women's volleyball.
Thursday, Aug. 2
5:30 a.m. -- Pro-Am setup
I woke up bright and early to go help set up the front nine for the pro-am with another on-site rules official, Joe Terry. Our main objectives that morning were to set-up the tees for the professionals for the pro-am and figuring out hole locations for the tournament rounds.
Determining where to place the holes for the tournament rounds was the most interesting part of the morning. Joe explained that he places holes on the greens where the prevailing winds would be in favor for the golfer.
11:00 a.m. -- Operations overview
The rest of the morning before leaving Minnesota consisted of learning about the operations side of the tournament. I met with Keith Newton, or Fig as everyone calls him, who is the Director of Tournament Operations on the Champions Tour.
Fig gave a tour of the operations trailer where they keep track of all of the scoring for the tournament. I was also introduced to other staff members who were responsible for monitoring scoring results. Basically, operations is the backbone of the tournament. Fig's great staff combined with numerous volunteers who help out on the operations side provides for a successful tournament for fans and players.
12:30 p.m. -- Leaving the Land of 10,000 Lakes
Although I could not stay to watch the tournament, I had a great time in Minnesota and it was awesome seeing what goes on behind the scenes leading up to competition for the 3M Championship. It really is amazing how many people it takes to run a tournament on the Champions Tour.