Behind the Headlines – June 28, 2019

Behind the Headlines – June 28, 2019


– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines is made
possible in part by: The WKNO Production Fund, The WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you.
Thank you. – The local impact of the
World Golf Championship, tonight, on
Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] – I’m Eric Barnes
with The Daily Memphian thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight
by Darrell Smith, Executive Director
with the World Golf Championship FedEx-St. Jude Invitational,
thanks for being here. – Yep, thanks for having me. – Along with Geoff Calkins, columnist with
The Daily Memphian. So this is a
significant change, and I will say as a
sort of casual sports fan, well a casual
golf fan actually. I didn’t understand. I remember it was about a year
ago that this announcement came out that the tournament,
the long time St. Jude, FedEx-St. Jude tournament
was going to be World Golf Championship, and I thought, well ok,
there’s a little something, but it’s a PR
thing or something. I don’t mean it cynically,
but I just didn’t get it. And then a friend of mine
said, “Oh this is a big deal”, and another person said,
“Oh, this is a big deal”, and it clearly is, but for
people who don’t follow it, who aren’t as close to
this as you and Geoff, why is this such a big deal? – Yeah, without question, last
April we announced that the WGC would be moving from
Akron, Ohio to Memphis, Tennessee, and when we
made that announcement, instantly you become one of the
the top ten golf tournaments in the entire world. There’s four
major championships, closely followed by the players
championship that’s played in Jacksonville, Florida, where
they have the home of the PGA Tour there in
Ponte Vedra Beach, and then this WGC is
World Golf Championship, so just with that announcement
we were elevated in the golf calendar instantly, and at the
end of the day it features the best players in the world, and
the best players in the world of golf are going
to be in Memphis, and with that
comes more attention, it has more corporate support,
more people from outside our area coming into our area
to see this golf tournament, so it’s a very
exciting time for us. – And so again, for people who
aren’t as close to this stuff, you’ve got the, I think
people know the Masters, and the US Open, and
those are the four Majors, you talked about the
Player’s Championship. What the tournament that we
had was sort of underneath the World Golf Championship, right,
there are lots of tournaments, I don’t know how many
in a year– – Yeah, there’s 40 to 45–
– I’m not trying to diminish them, but just so people–
– 40 to 45 tournaments on the PGA tour,
and the FedEx St. Jude Classic was known as a
co-sanctioned tournament, so it was just one of the
tournaments that are really the life blood of the PGA tour. They go into
communities and they play golf, and they have a great
charitable impact in that community, but at
the end of the day, you’re challenged to get the
best players in the world. There’s so many great golfers,
they are all not going to play 45 times in a calendar year,
so what we did when it became a World Golf Championship is that
we just transitioned into a larger platform where the
best players tend to play. No disrespect to the
FedEx-St. Jude Classic, we’re extremely happy with the
FedEx-St. Jude Classic and it’s unbelievable success
over 60-plus years, and it was extremely successful
financially, charitably, all aspects of it, but when we were
proposed this opportunity, and FedEx has always
been very vocal with, if there’s a way that we
could improve our hometown tournament, really where we got
involved in sports marketing back in 1989, that we
would be interested, and of course with our
relationship with the PGA Tour, that they do business
with the PGA Tour often, this opportunity came with
the Akron tournament taking a shift, and at the end of the
day that was a driving factor of, we’re going to be able to
have a world-class tournament, and it’s going to improve what
the FedEx-St. Jude classic was. – Obviously a lot
of great players play in the FedEx-St. Jude, the old version,
but it would still be suspense every single year. You would hope Phil
would come– – No doubt.
– ‘Cause Phil has been magnificent for this tournament
the last few years. Explain to folks, who already
do you know who’s coming. There’s a certain player who we
may discuss during the course of this show who may
or may not be coming, but why, explain to folks
why everyone comes to this tournment, and
who’s coming so far. – Yeah, so in the
past, you’re right Geoff, we would sit anxiously at 5
o’clock on Friday and have our fingers crossed that we
might get a surprise, and we have been fortunate over
the last several years that Phil Mickelson played
us six years in a row, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka
who are the number one and number two ranked players in
the world have been very loyal to Memphis. Brooks has played here
the last five years, and Dustin has played five
out of the last six years, so we were very happy with
those guys and we would always have our fingers crossed
that we would get more at the committment deadline. But at the end of
the day, the WGC, the guys start their
schedule with these in mind, so when they sit in you know,
September or October when the season is over,
they’re going to say, hey I hope I get
qualified for the four majors, and I hope I get qualified for
the World Golf Championships. There are no cut events,
so it’s guaranteed money, which always helps. – (Geoff)
They’re all weekend, so if they miss the cut
they’re still here. – Exactly, so there’s no
cut, so if for some reason they don’t have their game that week
and they go out and shoot 275s, well, they’re still
around on Saturday, and they can keep on improving. So there’s guaranteed money. The biggest thing is that they
like to compete against the best fields in golf. There’s more
world ranking points, so there’s a lot more
volatility if you are lower for World Golf rankings,
like say 35 to 50, if you were to win a
World Golf Championship, you would definitely go
up in those rankings, and that’s what all
those guys want to do, is they want to be at the
top of the official World Golf rankings, it gets them
more eligibility to the Major Championships, and then also,
just talking about the no-cut, and the guaranteed money, we
have one of the largest purses in all of professional golf,
I mean $10.25 million will be awarded during the
World Golf Championship, that compares to
$6.6 million of the FedEx-St. Jude Classic, so the
winner will get just shy of two million dollars, which is a
significant increase from what they got with the FedEx-St. Jude
Classic, so that right there is one of the main
reasons why they come, just to my earlier point
of they build their schedules around it, we already have five
of the top ten players in the world that have
committed, last year at the commttment deadline
we had two of the top ten. We still have 20
or so days to go, we expect that
number just to increase. – There is this
man, Tiger Woods, that I have read about. Have you thought
about asking him to come. [laughter] – Yeah, we thought
about asking him to play for the last, you know, since he’s
been playing golf in the early 90s, there’s no question that
Tiger transcends the game of golf, he is one of the most
well known celebrities in all of the world, so Tiger
is eligible to play, which is key because
in the recent years, he hasn’t been eligible to play
for World Golf Championships, I mean last year he played so
much golf because he wanted to become eligible for
these type of events, that also speaks to the
stature of the sport. But, we won’t know for Tiger
till closer to the committment deadline, but he’s
already played two World Golf Championships this year. – And I should back up,
again, for people not quite so familiar, July 24th is the–
– Yeah, July 24th to 28th. – That’s the Friday or the
Thursday that it starts? – July 24th is actually the
Wednesday and the first day that we’re open to the public
is Wednesday of tournament week, and then our final
round is July 28th on Sunday. – What do you expect
in terms of patron, let’s do Tiger,
and without Tiger. I mean, like you
must have two plans, do you have, you may not
find out till the Friday before whether he’s definitely coming,
do you have a Tiger plan, whether it’s security, whether
it’s selling more tickets, I don’t know, what do you
expect the boost to be? – Yeah, at the end of the day
we’ve already planned for an increase with the WGC, and the
field that we’re expecting– – How much bigger,
even with or without? – That’s a good question, we’ve
never had to deal with Tiger here in Memphis, but our peers,
and colleagues of mine in the business, and when Tiger goes
to a market that he’s never played, like Tampa. He went to that
market two years ago, Austin, Texas, he went to
that market earlier this year, they see a
significant increase. They are up 50%
over where they were. Sometimes 100%
over where they were. I think for us, where
we’re at in Memphis, we’re such a
regional attraction. You know you got to think that
Nashville, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama,
Little Rock, Arkansas, boot heel of Missouri, all of those people if he
does decide to play our event, they probably, this is the
closest access they’re ever going to get to Tiger Woods. And everybody remembers the
first time they saw Tiger, so you know time will tell as
far as what that impact is, but we’re already
planning, we have two plans, to your point Geoff, and we
have two plans that we are expecting an
increased attendance, but we also know that if
he does decide to play, it’s going to
hit another level. – And that attendance
historically has been what? – Yeah, so we kind of had a
little bit of the honor system going on at the back
nine of TPC Southwind. We had a green and white
rope that separated us from 500 homes at Southwind, and
there’s going to be much more infrastructure with the WGC,
but historically we’ve had about ten to twelve thousand
people per day on Saturday and Sunday. We think we’re going to have
about 50-60 thousand people for the week is what we think for
the entire tournament week– – That’s without Tiger? – That’s without
Tiger, yeah, for sure. Our early ticket sales
are extremely strong, we’re one of the strongest
ones on the PGA tour right now, the early ticket sales, so we
expect that just to increase. At the end of the day I
don’t know what that number is. I think if we were
20,000 strong out there, that would be
a significant increase that you would really feel. – I do think the importance
of FedEx in all of this is, it was not so long ago,
that this golf tournament was teetering. Stanford had come
in, it blew up. FedEx has–
– (Eric) Stanford Financial. – Stanford Financial had come
in, yes, not the university, the Stanford Financial came in, things did not go well, and
FedEx has been absolutely unflagging their support,
obviously in their support of Memphis broadly,
but this would not have happened but for FedEx. This is FedEx and its
investment in Memphis that made this happen. – No question about it. I mean FedEx at
the end of the day, they believe in the PGA Tour,
they’ve been involved with us since 1986, they’re the sponsor
of the FedEx Cup– – (Eric)
FedEx Cup, for people that don’t know? – FedEx Cup is a season-long
points competition on the PGA tour, so the players are
playing to win the FedEx Cup at the end of the day. So every tournament on the
PGA Tour has a points system allotted to it, first
place gets you 500 points, and there’s a leader board that
takes you through all the weeks of the PGA tour. We award the FedEx Cup at the
PGA championship in Atlanta, historic East Lake Golf Club,
so the guys are competing for the FedEx Cup, it’s important
to them that they want to win the FedEx Cup. FedEx’s support of the
PGA Tour in Memphis, you can’t understate how
important it is to the tournament. They stepped back up when
Stanford Financial did come across those troubles, they’ve
been associated with the golf tournament for quite some time. And like I said earlier,
they just want to continue to improve our event, and they
played a huge role in this. – I remember, slightly
different question but staying on FedEx, number one the
forum was being built, when the Grizzlies were
coming, and there was this, as I remember it, it felt
like it was between us and Louisville, and the KFC people,
the corporation behind KFC and Pepsi–
– (Geoff) YUM!. – And they were talking about
two hundred million dollar commitment to get the then
Vancouver Grizzlies to come, and I remember a
lot of people saying, well we’re out, we’re done. And there was somebody from
FedEx who stood up at a podium and said we’ve heard
the numbers coming out of Louisville, and we
are not concerned. But you know when
you think about that, and what they have done,
sometimes what you think is, well, they’re doing
this for Memphis, which is true, but FedEx
does massive amounts of sports marketing worldwide. – I think there’s two
things happening here, and Darrell knows more
about this than I do, but their investment in
golf is because they believe, they wouldn’t be doing it if
they don’t think it’s good for FedEx, very clearly. Apart from that though,
FedEx doesn’t need more brand awareness in Memphis in
terms of FedEx forum. They did not need
their name on FedEx Forum. There’s some national stuff
that goes along with that, because if the Grizzlies
are in the playoffs you get, here we are in FedEx
Forum, but I think that, so some of that I think
their interest in golf is it’s generally because
it’s good for FedEx, but when they step up and do
something like put their name on FedEx Forum, and
buy naming rights, that’s because they’re
good corporate citizens, and with you those
things coalesce. – Yeah, it’s
they’re intertwined, there’s no doubt. I mean the golf works
for their business, but this was their very first
sports marketing endeavor in professional sports was
Memphis’ PGA Tour event. – (Eric)
Oh really? – Yeah, so this is where they
kind of got their feet wet, and it’s been a
fabric of that company, I mean we’re literally
in their back yard too, FedEx headquarters, they come
out on their lunch and they see TPC Southland, and
they see the tournament, and there’s FedEx team
members that are volunteers, so it’s a family affair
as it results to FedEx, and then of course
with St. Jude, and the impact
the tournament has had for St. Jude over the years. Raising over $43
million, that’s key to FedEx’s involvement, is making sure
that St. Jude is integrated into this community and that
we’re raising money for them. – It’s going to be
a little different, can I ask you a few quick
questions that people are concerned about? One is, the Seersucker jackets
are gone, right? – That’s right.
– Seersucker jackets are gone. The corndogs? The Pronto Pups, let’s call
them by their proper name, the pronto pups? – They will be alive and well. – The pronto
pups will be there. – Yep. – What other changes, when
you walk out to the golf tournament, what else are you
going to see that’s different? – Yeah, that’s been our
focus all year is just try to re-imagine the
FedEx-St. Jude Classic, and not get rid of anything from
the FedEx-St. Jude Classic, but the things that work, try to amplify that in the
WGC in this bigger model. But we want the event to be a
true reflection of Memphis, and if that’s celebrating the
top barbecue restaurants that are more well-known barbecue
restaurants in our city, which was a hard
discussion to be honest, because there are
barbecue politics in our city, and a lot of great
restaurants, but– – (Eric)
You got four of them. – We got four of them– – (Geoff)
You got a place called The Pit. – We got a pit–
– It’s got four– – What happens, how do you do
that, what you should do is take a barbecue off, and have the
four winners every year– – No doubt. – Sort of like a
miniature FedEx Cup. – We might have to do that–
[Geoff laughs] – In order to figure out which four
should come on a yearly basis, but a lot of those partners
have supported the tournament in the past, at the
FedEx-St. Jude Classic, it made sense to go
to those partners. So we’ll have The Pit located
on the front nine between the two silos on eight and nine,
one of the best food trucks in Memphis located on the
back nine between 13 and 14, which we’re
extremely excited about. More shaded covered
bleachers for the spectators. There’s no doubt that
we’re a summertime sport, so we’re playing in July
where the temperature will be like summer. So we want to make sure that
our fans have plenty of cover to watch the great
players in the game of golf. We’ll have more fan activations
inside an area called the hub, which will be a place
for people to come inside, cool off, see some different
fan attractions like the AutoZone fan zone, or the
BlueCross-BlueShield of Tennessee Family Care Suite,
so we definitely have been very focused on the, hey, when
you come on site that you experience a difference from the
FedEx-St. Jude Classic. – You have set a record on
corporate mentions in just the first 16 minutes of the show,
so I do appreciate that you’re leading the pack there. – (Geoff)
You should go to NASCAR. – Yes, I know, we’re going
to start swapping out hats. [laughing] – There’s nothing on
your lapel as far as I can see. Let’s stay local,
the local impact. You talk about
big money that is, well, everybody talks
about their big local impact, but don’t you talk about
$50 to $60 million in local economic impact? And where does that play
out, where does that come from? – Yeah, I mean, so we know the
tournament is going to have a significant economic
impact for our city, we’re going to have over 300
media members from around the world in our city just alone. Which in the past we had about
30 working media– – (Geoff)
Right. – that were covering the
FedEx-St. Jude Classic, but you know Hideki Matziyama
who’s a Japanese professional golfer will have 25 media
members that are going to be coming from Northern
Ireland to Memphis, Tennessee. – Northern Ireland,
so people who don’t follow are like, wait. So none of that
makes any sense. Northern Ireland is that
there’s a big tournament the week before. – There is, so the
Open Championship in Northern Ireland is the
week preceeding us, so all the guys that will
be playing in our event are going to be coming back
to Memphis for the World Golf Championship. – On a jet you
all have chartered. – Yeah, so we do have an
airplane that will be coming from Northern Ireland to
Memphis– – Just a random jet, just some
jet, you called jet rentals– – Jetrentals.com
– No, it’s Mark Cuban’s jet right, the guy that
owns the Mavericks? – It is a Mark Cuban airplane. It’s the same airplane
that the tournament, the John Deere Tournament uses
to take them over to the Open, it will stay over
in Northern Ireland, and then we will bring
the passengers back, which will have the
majority of our players, probably 75
players compared to 156, most of our players will be on
this airplane that will land in Memphis on Sunday night, but
the economic impact is that all those people, all those media
members that are over there, they come to Memphis, they’ll
be there for the entire week, all of our different partners
that are coming into town that are activating at
the tournament, they’ll be staying at hotels,
they’ll be eating out at restaurants,
they’ll be shopping, all of that, so we have a lot
of regional focus of people coming in for the weekend,
so that will generate a significant economic impact. – And the other four WGC
events are in Shanghai, Mexico City, and Austin, Texas. – That’s right. – And then this what
you’re talking about, a billion households, 220
households and territories, just again back to this
scale, and I’m curious Geoff, you and I both are
adopted Memphians, moved here around the
same time 25ish years ago, and there’s always this chip on
the shoulder kind of thing with Memphis, that is diminishing
it seems like as time goes by, but this kind of stuff
sometimes matters to people, that it’s, that elevation and
putting Memphis on the stage, and I’m curoius how that plays
out with you with people you hear, and on the talk
show, does this kind of stuff resonate with the average
sports fan of Memphis as a sort of moment of pride, or? – I think there’s
a real, I think, we like to be on television,
people like it when it’s on television, and you like to
see the shots of Memphis, and you like to see
the shots of the pit, and you like, I think, and I
honestly think most cities are like this, they like to
see themselves on TV, and that’s the part
of this that I think, and I don’t know what
the TV audience is, but compared to what it used
to be it’s going to be a vastly different TV audience. There’s actually, what you see
is sometimes Memphis is guilty of jealousy of other places,
what you actually see is a lot of jealousy of Memphis. When Washington D.C. lost their tournament, or lost
the tournament date to Memphis, this was ten
years ago, there was, Why does Memphis get this? Why does Memphis, why is
Memphis getting the World Golf Championship? And so, we’re in this
interesting position where people are jealous of this
event being in this city. And it’s obvious why it is,
first of all it has strong historical support
of golf in the city, but obviously FedEx
has a lot to do with it. But there is, there
is a certain pride, for really what was Memphis’
original pro sports franchise. Before there
were the Grizzlies, there was this golf tournament
that came every year that brought the best in
the world to Memphis, and now the best in the
world are coming back. – And has it always resonated? Again, whether it was a column
you wrote or someone on social media, or on the radio show,
does it resonate both as an event, but does it resonate
in terms of a golf tournament? – It’s different. In terms of like pure clicks,
which is how people measure things now, golf
doesn’t resonate like, if you could get Penny Hardaway
playing this tournament, that would be great too. And Tiger, that would be great. But it’s just
true, it’s different. There will be people in
England reading the columns. It’s just, and
then if Tiger comes, it will be insanity. It will truly be, and I
hate to put this on you, because it’s a great event,
it’s the only thing I don’t like about the Tiger mania
is, if for whatever reason he doesn’t, if he gets injured,
or if he decides not to come, you don’t want it
to diminish it, it is an unbelievable event. Tiger or not Tiger,
but if Tiger comes, it’s going to be pure insanity,
it will be one of the great sports events, because
people had really given up, they thought he never
would play Memphis. – There’s no question that a
Tiger event is different than a non-Tiger event. So his significance can’t
be understated by any means. What I see in the community,
is I see a lot of people saying like, almost like
we deserve this. Hey we’ve been the FedEx-St. Jude Classic has been
successful, and to Geoff’s point that people like to see Memphis, and they like to see
the Stars in Memphis. They want to see Tiger Woods
walking the fairways of TPC Southland, hey he’s in our
hometown and we’re passionate about our hometown, and he
gets to experience St. Jude, and knows what St. Jude
means to our community. So I see a lot of people
that are talking like it’s about time. That this what we deserve. – Think of the volunteers,
think about how many volunteers, you go
out there on a given, and there are people who
have been there for fifty, or forty years have
been volunteering. How many volunteers
do you have at that? – We have 1800 volunteers
that work over 25,000 hours. – And a lot of those people
take their vacation to do this golf tournament, and so
yeah, there is this sense of, and they’ve been doing this
for years and years and years. – We have volunteers
who leave Memphis, that go, they get
re-located for a job, they come back just for
this tournament to work this tournament. We have one of our committee
chairs that lives in Ohio now, and he comes back
every year to work the FedEx-St. Jude Invitational. – Let’s talk about St. Jude,
because I think I got us off track from that. That role, and money
is raised for them, how does that all play
out, St. Jude’s role? – So St. Jude, the partnership
that we have with them, I mean we’re integrated
in everything that we do. It’s important to
FedEx of course, but just the way, you
go to our tournament, and you go to another
tournament on the PGA Tour, you won’t know
who the charity is. You won’t know who the
sole beneficiary is, but that’s the great
thing about the PGA Tour, we play in these communities
and give back to these communities, but
here in Memphis, we integrate St. Jude
in everything. We might have an honorary pin
flag holder on the 18th green, we’ll dedicate a FedEx Airplane
in honor of a FedEx team member who unfortunately has
a son or daughter who’s a patient at St. Jude. So we’re going to continue to
drive awareness and raise funds for them. We’ve raised over $43 million,
and we only expect for that to grow exponentially
in the coming years. – It used to be
through a program, that would be the
money raising vehicle. There’s no longer a program, how do you raise
money for St. Jude? – Yeah, so corporate
hospitality cells, you know those venues that
we’re selling right now, those impact what
we give to St. Jude. Our volunteers they
fundraise for St. Jude, I mean, they do a peer-to-peer
fundraising where they ask their peers or their
neighbors to give them $10, $5, $4 whatever it might
be for the hours that work. Last year alone that
raised over $450,000. So we take a collection
of events that are tied to tournament week. And it’s not just that one
tournament that is producing the money, it’s any and
everything that can be tied in some regard to the tournament,
a Tuesday night concert that has an auction, that raises
$400,000– – Yeah there’s a whole host of
other events that are going on. At FedEx Forum, not
a little concert. There’s a ton of
stuff happening. – Yeah, we’re, a lot of those
might have a charitable tie-in in some regard. There are houses at Southland
that host parties that raise $200,000. If you come to the party at
Southland in the tournament, it costs for you to attend. Put it in the bucket, and
that’s going to the hospital, so that’s what’s really unique
about the community in our tournament. – A question for both of you
with just two minutes left, do the athletes
care about that? I mean do the actual, I
don’t want to name names here, because that, I’m sure
there’s some who don’t. I’m sure there’s some who do,
but do they connect with the St. Jude experience
and the whole culture? – Without question, I would say
that athletes don’t base their schedule by
anything around that, but there is no
question about it, when they get on
site at our tournament, they know there’s a difference. They go to the hospital,
they go to the charity, they interact withy
patients, I mean last year, Dustin Johnson,
as soon as he won, he made a
contribution to the hospital. Now, Dustin doesn’t
want to, publicize, and he’s not looking to
get publicity for it, but that was important for him,
because he knows that after he won, he had that
St. Jude patient, and he made a contribution,
and Brooks Koepka has done the same thing. Daniel Burger, all of them
usually get a connection to the hospital once
they’ve played here. – Is it always
going to be this date, and you picked the
hottests day of the year, was that the strategy? – That’s our goal, yeah. It’s a summer
time sport, so yeah. – Weed these
people out, test them. – Exactly, the dates are
always fluid on the PGA Tour, especially in Olympic years. So now golf is
back in the Olympics, so we’ll play the
Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, so there will probably be
some fluidity in the PGA Tour schedule. But we’re always going
to be in the summertime, there’s no question about it,
that’s really the only time you can play professional
golf in Memphis too, you could play it in the fall,
but honestly that’s what the shift of the PGA
Tour schedule was, to get away from fall, because
there’s a certain sport that dominates TV. [Eric laughs] And
that’s football. So that’s the big shift that we
made is to try to finish golf in August. – And you may have said it
but one more time with thirty seconds left, the top ten of
the PGA who’ve committed right now, you have five of the
top ten who’ve committed. – Yeah, so five of the top ten
have already committed to play. – Name them real
quick, can you? – Yeah, Xander
Schafly, Patrick Cantley, Justin Rose,
that’s three of them, correct? – Bryson?
– Bryson Dechambeau– – I knew that because it was
written in front of me. [Eric and Geoff chuckle]
– Put me on the spot, I can’t remember. – No I’m sorry.
That wasn’t fair to you. – Name the four
barbecue places. – No, no, no, don’t do that.
We’re out, we’re all done. Thank you Geoff,
Thank you Darrell. And thank you for joining us. Join us again next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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