This August, Tulsa will be rolling in the green.
An onslaught of golf-hungry visitors will fill Tulsa’s hotels, restaurants, streets and parking spaces as they scramble for a look at the pros attempting to beat the time-tested Southern Hills Country Club Golf Course during the 89th PGA Championship.
Southern Hills, the PGA, the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Convention and Visitors Bureau have been working for months to get ready for the Aug. 6-12 event.
With an expected gate nearing 350,000, and a boost to business that will likely exceed the $3.7 million sales tax surge that accompanied the 2001 U.S. Open, the championship is no doubt the hottest boon to Tulsa tourism for 2007.
“It definitely will be,” said Suzann Stewart, executive director of the Tulsa CVB.
“There is not an event that we have focused on as a community since 2001 that is going to attract the numbers of people and have the economic impact that this event is going to have,” she said. “That is a huge deal. I really expect it to be tremendously successful.”
Southern Hills will become the first course to host four PGA Championships, having conducted the event in 1970, 1982 and 1994.
Highlighting the field will be two-time PGA Champion Tiger Woods, 2005 PGA Champion Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen, winner of the 2001 U.S. Open.
Tulsa in the Spotlight
Al Bush, general chairman for the championship, said the PGA set up its offices in August to begin preparations for the event, including organizing more than 3,500 volunteers and selling corporate sponsorships for up to $160,000 per chalet. He has no doubts all available sponsorships will be sold.
“At the end of the day, a lot of people step up to do this to be part of what’s happening in the city,” said Bush, who has three decades of experience organizing and marketing golf events.
He said hospitality revenues, which include the sponsorships and the bulk of the gate, will gross in excess of $35 million and will be shared by the PGA and Southern Hills.
Although the week-long event will draw as many as 50,000 people a day to the course and will have a projected economic impact of $69.5 million, “there is also the media exposure that Tulsa is going to get,” said Ryan Jordan, tournament director.
“We are broadcast in more than 180 countries,” he said. “When CBS and TNT broadcast the championship, people are looking at the golf course and the players, but it’s also about Tulsa. CBS will do different feature pieces on the history of Tulsa – what makes Tulsa unique.”
“It’s huge,” Stewart said. “When the guys are talking on the television, they are not just talking about the players. They are talking about Tulsa and what is going on here.
“If you have seen the other tournaments and they are teeing off from that first box with the skyline in the background, it is just an immediate picture that Tulsa is not flat, dry and dusty. Its green and hilly and beautiful and contemporary, and that is an image that we have to get out.”
The PGA and Tulsa CVB are working closely with the City of Tulsa to make sure visitors’ impressions of Tulsa are positive.
“The PGA tournament is a great opportunity for Tulsa to once again be the star on a world stage, and we will be ready,” said Mayor Kathy Taylor. “2007 is Oklahoma’s Centennial year and a perfect time for people from all over the world to come to Tulsa and see all the many things we have to offer.”
“Preparations have already begun. I am working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to make sure that our efforts are coordinated and that Tulsa really shines during this event,” she said.
“The influx of visitors will bring significant economic impact. But, beyond that I will also be viewing this event as an opportunity to showcase the city in terms of economic development.”
For Tulsa hotels, the championship is nothing short of a Cinderella story.
Joe Gaudet, general manger of Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills, 1902 E. 71st, said his 383 rooms have been sold out for more than a year, many to the PGA and some donated by the hotel for the city and chamber to woo potential meeting planners.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for the city of Tulsa,” he said. “I was here for the U.S. Open, and if the PGA Championship is anything like the Open, it’s huge, in every way, shape and form. It not only filled our hotel, but it contributes a huge influx of people from out of town who drop a lot of money here.”
All 370 rooms at the Doubletree Hotel Tulsa at Warren Place, 6110 S. Yale Ave., were spoken for by summer last year as well, said Brett Sundstrum, general manager. All were taken by the PGA.
“We didn’t sell to the general public,” he said. “Because of the proximity of the hotel to the golf course, we have the players who aren’t superstars, PGA officials and some of their corporate sponsors.”
Other businesses also expect a boost from the event.
Ken MacLeod, editor of Tulsa-based South Central Golf, the official magazine of the South Central Section of the PGA, expects the 2007 PGA Championship Special Issue to be his biggest since the 2001 Open. The Open issue was about double the size and triple the advertising revenue of a regular SCG issue.
The Championship issue will be distributed free throughout Tulsa at
restaurants, pro shops and to every pro shop in the three-state section area and subscribers.
“Working at a regional golf publication, it’s always exciting and important when a major championship comes to your area,” MacLeod said, “particularly the PGA Championship because of our long-standing relationship with the PGA section and the local professionals who work so hard to advance the game.”
Golf and Tulsa Sittin’ in a Tree
Golf has played a major role in Tulsa tourism for years, Stewart said.
“Certainly in terms of the major events that we have hosted, whether its women’s golf or the men’s championship, through the years Tulsa has become known as almost tournament central. And people here are absolutely in love with it,” she said.
“From a tourism perspective, whenever we host any of those major golf events, we will have a good 50 percent of those people who attend who are coming from out of town.”
Stewart said the LPGA tour event, which has been held in Tulsa for the past six years, is a “tremendous asset.”
“It is another opportunity for us, like the PGA, to change our image,” she said. “The ladies that are on this tour think of us as one of the best tour stops along the way.”
The 2007 SemGroup Championship presented by John Q. Hammons, which will be held at Cedar Ridge Country Club April 1-May 6, has recorded a total gate of nearly 400,000 in its six years in Tulsa, said Andy Bush, senior director of the Octagon golf group, tournament manager.
He said the economic impact for the event “averages right around the $12 million mark each year.” ?