Farmers Insurance Open 2017 Recap

What a weekend! Four days of volunteering at the Farmers Insurance Open left our students with a very memorable experience! Read up on some of our students’ weekends here:

Nick Loewen (SMBA ’18): While some of us woke up Monday morning with a case of the sniffles, and others feeling groggy from averaging six hours of sleep for the past four nights – not one of us would’ve traded in the experience we’ve gained from working the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.  From seeing Tiger Woods return to action after more than a year away from the PGA tour, to watching fan-favorite and San Diego local, Phil Mickelson, be followed by massive crowds of loyal fans – everyone had a unique experience and gained valuable insight into how a large-scale event like this is organized and run from a business perspective.

On day one the buzz was all about the two main groupings; Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson in one group – Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, and Jimmy Walker in the other.  All you needed to do was look for a large crowd of people to figure out what hole either of these two groups were on.  Our tasks as volunteers at this event included things like surveying volunteers and attendants, holding the ‘Keep Calm, Torrey On’ signs, and Tweet Caddying – which was basically walking around the course and taking photos of fans, pros, and sponsors for social media.  I think it’s safe to say that if you were a Tweet Caddy on day one, you were following one of these two groupings around and taking pictures of all the excitement that came with it.

After the first day, my personal experience changed slightly – I became less of a fan of the event, and more of an observer of what the event meant to the various people attending.  I was stationed in Trophy Club – the highest priced suite open to the public, which had a perfect view of the 18th hole on the South Course.  For the most part, everyone in this club’s main purpose was to socialize and network.  Sure, there were times when everyone would stop to watch the action, but that was only temporary.  A lot of business happens at these events, and a lot of relationships begin with a handshake at a golf tournament.

This differed from the Fringe, which was the lowest priced hospitality option – the crowd in there was a little bit more rowdy and more geared towards the party aspect of a golf tournament.  Holding the ‘Keep Calm, Torrey On’ sign in this venue was a bit more difficult..

All in all, the Farmers Insurance Open was a valuable learning experience for all of us in the program – the fact that we got to partake in this event just two weeks into our time at SDSU was pretty amazing.  I had countless friends back home asking me why I was skipping school to be at a golf tournament – explaining to them that this WAS school was tough for them to grasp.

Kevin Lundstrom (SMBA ’18): Our class was very heavily involved in the social media side of the event’s operation, taking pictures for the Twitter page was one of our most important duties. Exploring the course and finding the perfect pictures of fans, golfers, food, and sponsors was a lot of fun and offered a great opportunity to meet and talk with fans and other volunteers. We also helped out in a lot of the hospitality tents performing various tasks as well like holding the “Keep Calm” signs or handing out wristbands. Lastly, we were given the opportunity to track and record data in a couple different facets of event management. Tracking length of shuttle rides, length of lines for food and beverage, and the number of people in the different hospitality tents on the course were just a few of the analytical tasks we performed. Overall it was a fantastic opportunity to meet a variety of different people and to help out and learn more about event management.

Tawnia Allison (SMBA ’18): For the past four days, the SMBA class from San Diego State University has been volunteering at the Farmers Insurance Open. We have collected and analyzed data, including information on parking, transportation, hospitality venues, volunteers, and photo opportunities called “tweet caddies.” The class was able to connect with both the other volunteers of the open, as well as attendees. Students spoke with sponsors of the event and interviewed volunteers working the event. Through this, we were able to find out how long the volunteers have been involved with the Open, where the volunteers are from, and how they got involved. We were able to collect data on parking services, such as shuttles, and their efficiency (i.e.: the time it took to get on to a shuttle and how long it took to get to and from the parking lots). Surveying the attendees to see how they got to the Open provided us with valuable information, such as that a lot of the attendees came from out of town (most out of state) to observe the tournament. While in the hospitality venues, we were able to survey the food and beverage process and efficiency, as well as the actions of the patrons. We observed whether they were watching golf versus socializing, if the seats were filled, and the overall atmosphere. During our “tweet caddy” times, we took photos of sponsors, volunteers, and fans enjoying the activities. We were also able at that time to help with corralling and directing attendees, answering questions, and assisting whomever needed our help. Overall, the tournament was a great learning experience and helped us gather some important information that we can now present to the Century Club.

Forrest Lockwood (SMBA ’18): As I sit here on this beautiful 75-degree January day in San Diego, my feet are busted up, my knees are sore, my back is on fire… and I couldn’t be happier. I walked 26 miles over the last four days at the stunning Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla volunteering for the Farmers Insurance Open on behalf of the Sports MBA program, and every step was totally worth it.

As someone interested in non-profit work in the future, I am pleased that this exciting tournament (a final round 65 from eventual winner Jon Rahm – with an eagle on 18 as icing on the cake – more than made up for some big names missing the cut) helped to raise nearly $1 million for San Diego-area charities, with an additional $250,000 to be contributed by Farmers Insurance. Some of the wonderful volunteers helped to spread the word throughout the weekend about specific charities like the Armed Services YMCA of San Diego, the First Tee of San Diego County, and Junior Achievement of San Diego County.

Speaking of those volunteers, before play began on Saturday, I had the pleasure of chatting with Bob Steber, who has volunteered at the Farmers Insurance Open for 50(!) years. Mr. Steber was helping raise money for SAY San Diego, who provides a wide range of services and education for families and youth in the San Diego area, including after-school programs, youth development, and support for military, immigrant, and refugee families alike. This man has stories for DAYS, including the time he accompanied President Gerald Ford and legendary entertainer Bob Hope at Torrey Pines, and specifically recalled the armed Secret Service agents in tow. This was Bob’s final year volunteering at the Open, and after 50 years at Torrey Pines on top of a 30+ year career as a firefighter with the Chula Vista FD, I’d say he’s earned the highest praise for a job well done.

As for myself, I certainly got some education this weekend. I’d attended PGA events in the past, but never looked at an event with a critical eye as I was asked to do. It’s obviously important to keep spectators happy, and we had the chance to ensure just that by identifying issues and potential fixes for the various parking shuttles, concession stands, and luxury suites around the course. Additionally, we served as the “eyes and ears” on the ground on behalf of the tournament organizers (the Century Club of San Diego), assisting spectators with any problems that arose, and we’ll collate our data and issue recommendations for future tournaments in the coming weeks. And, oh yeah, we also got to watch some world-class golf on one of the most beautiful courses in the world, and take pictures and videos for the Open’s social media accounts. Not a bad way to spend a “chilly” January weekend in San Diego.

Until next year, #SeeYouAtTorrey!

Post by: Nick Loewen, Kevin Lundstrom, Tawnia Allison, and Forrest Lockwood