Major Championships Define Golf Success

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When it comes to golf, our clients get a creative, passionate, well-connected golf and hospitality PR team – also one totally obsessed golfer who knows and loves the sport even when his way-past-parallel swing cruelly abandons him. Phil Weidinger's golf background includes stints with:

  • American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe on NBC Sports
    PR and media room director the past 23 years
  • Tahoe Reno Golf Media Tour –
    Event Organizer the last 15 years
  • 1985 United States Senior Open
    Tournament Director
  • Gold Rush Classic, PGA Champions Tour event in Sacramento, California
    Tournament Media Director for 15 years
  • Golf Courses and Events
    Agency of record for over 25 years

Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic

While The Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic takes place over two days in July, the story itself is more about the lifelong legacy of a football legend – and beyond. It's that story and the people whose lives have been changed that was the basis for the PR campaign. Started in 2009 by Terri Upshaw, Gene's widow, the Golf Classic has now raised nearly $700,000 for the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund. The money finances pancreatic cancer research, sustainability and advancement of medical technology, quality medical treatment and care for cancer patients and their families at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center in Truckee, Calif., and research into mild traumatic brain injury.

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Kicking toward another successful American Century Championship with the party hole on No. 17

The challenge is keeping the story fresh and before the media throughout the year; not just during the days and weeks leading up to the event. It's about personal connection and relating the mission and efforts of the Memorial Fund as an authentic reflection of Gene's personal accomplishments. Weidinger PR leveraged Upshaw's legacy, with the research being conducted as a result of the fund, to generate stories about the tournament. The NFL's long running legal battle over the long term effects of concussions and the pressure to protect children in youth sports has made concussion research a timely topic. The Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund is the sole provider of funding for concussion research at the Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Research. This research became the conduit to take the golf tournament beyond a regional news event and place it out on the national stage.

Weidinger PR secured media sponsorships for the golf tournament with influential Northern California media outlets: Entercom Sacramento and KCRA-TV, the area's top news station. Weidinger PR wrote and provided content and a contest was conducted on all seven radio stations. Live interviews with participating celebrities were also conducted leading up to the event. Banners were included on all station websites with direct links to the Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic website.

In addition to the golf tournament, every December, the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund raffles a trip for two to the Super Bowl. When the winners were announced the story was one of hope. The winner was a patient of the Gene Upshaw Cancer Center and a local Incline Village resident. Gary Kasden had just undergone a series of chemotherapy treatments and learned his cancer was in remission right before he won the trip. Weidinger PR serviced a press release that was picked up in the hospital's regional media. Later Kasden was informed that his compromised immune system would not allow him to travel. The Kasdens asked to donate their prize package to a deserving child.

Working with the various partners, the Northern Nevada Children's Cancer, and the Tahoe Forest Health System Foundation, Weidinger PR serviced an embargoed press release and organized a surprise press conference where Kody Beach and his family were informed they would be attending the Super Bowl. Kody, a junior in high school, was undergoing treatment for stage 4 melanoma. The press conference, held in a Reno restaurant, attracted all of the Reno network affiliate television stations, Comcast Sports Network Bay Area, and generated a feature story in the Reno Gazette-Journal. The story was picked up by the Associated Press wire and ran in outlets from coast-to-coast.

A press release on Kody's story, the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund and the golf tournament was also distributed in the press room at the Super Bowl. The news segment of Kody's surprise was later shown at the event's pairing party which generated instant donations for the fund.

To reinforce the personal side of the event and to cement long-term relationships for future efforts, Weidinger put together a media foursome for the day of the event including the San Francisco Chronicle sports editor, KCRA-TV (Sacramento) sports director, and KGO (San Francisco) sports talk radio host, joined Terri Upshaw to play at the tournament.

To help build sponsorship interest and expand fundraising a video for the golf classic was developed with footage from the event, interviews with players, Terri Upshaw, and current sponsors. Weidinger PR created a shot list and conducted interviews with sponsors and players. An email letter was drafted with links to the video for board members to use in their outreach to potential sponsors both individual and corporate.

Talking points were provided to the sports celebrities that were interviewed on behalf of the event including baseball legend Vida Blue, J.T. Snow, and Shawn Estes. In addition to the Entercom promotion, KNBR Radio in San Francisco interviewed Estes about the tournament on its Hooked on Golf show.

The PR campaign resulted in 86 newspaper stories in print and online across the country, two on-air radio programs, more than 50 radio spots, and television coverage on KCRA Sacramento, KRNV Reno, and Comcast Sports Network. PR generated media coverage reached an audience of 36 million, which resulted in an advertising equivalency of more than $190,000. Highlights from the coverage included columns in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Reno Gazette-Journal on how Gene Upshaw's legacy is funding research into mTBI. The campaign once again placed Gene Upshaw's name in the news and more importantly, his legacy and the work conducted in his memory before a national audience.


 

Tahoe Reno Golf Media Tour

In an ongoing effort to showcase the Reno/Lake Tahoe area as one of the West's leading golf destinations, leading courses of Golf the High Sierra (GTHS), a marketing co-operative, along with area tourism organizations and golf and marketing partners contract with Weidinger Public Relations to conduct a national golf media tour. The purpose: generate media coverage in targeted markets: Northern and Southern California, and along the West Coast where approximately 70% of customers emanate. The exposure generated through editorial coverage and third-party endorsements from media in traditional and new media markets would effectively leverage the group's budget during an economic downturn that has impacted travel in general and golf in particular.

The area has 44 golf courses within a 90-minute drive and all the elements of a leading golf destination: a plethora of exceptional mountain, desert and valley courses, scenic beauty, four-star accommodations and dining, 24-hour Nevada lifestyle, superstar entertainment, substantial package value and an international airport with convenient access to 44 cities throughout the country. It also has two nationally known golf tournaments: the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship on NBC and the Reno-Tahoe Open, a PGA TOUR event.

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Girls will be boys

 

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Star Wars bar scene players
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Our insurance doesn't cover this

 

A comprehensive media list included national golf publications, proven freelancers including travel media interested in golf, golf writers from major west coast dailies and specifically defined national online golf outlets. A "hold the date" notice was emailed months in advance. An online media invitation utilized the survey results and complemented the positioning of Reno/Lake Tahoe as a desirable area to combine golf, outdoor and indoor recreation, along with spectacular scenic beauty and idyllic summer weather.

With ever tightening budget concerns, we have to ensure sponsors of solid results. While attracting media to Lake Tahoe to "play golf" may sound easy, hard news and legitimate stories are the only way to convince an editor to assign the story for that very reason.

With the economic impact on golf reflecting a national trend, we provided specific examples of what the destination was doing to market golf here and provided interview sources. Additional ideas to reinforce the unique attributes of Reno/Tahoe highlighted area vibe and personalities, "only here" guys and ladies' getaways, side trips that demonstrated an overall appeal for golfers and non-golfers and families.

The comprehensive website reinforced the "leading reputation" theme, with all the facts, participating golf course information, itinerary, and RSVP form to make it attractive and convenient for busy media to respond. We also hired a leading golf photographer for shots used on the website and flash drive that each attendee received to complement their stories.

With involvement from nine Visitors Authorities, 16 golf courses, 23 lodging properties in five geographic locations (the media tour moved daily) and 23 individualized media itineraries, logistics needed to be seamless. Arrangements were made with all the lodging properties for rooms, the golf courses for tee times, and various casinos and restaurants for meals and entertainment. A fleet of rental cars was secured at a substantial discount allowing each attendee to have their own car for the week. The itinerary included a welcome reception, nightly dinners and entertainment, dine-arounds and various activities that reflected the unique personality of the destination.

Each attendee received an individualized itinerary based on scheduled group activities and the courses they signed up to play. For six days and nights the media had a first-person opportunity to see what makes the Reno/Tahoe golf experience attractive.

Evaluation – Comparing the results to the stated media objectives indicates the program's overwhelming success. Exposure exceeded 12.3 million circulation and print advertising equivalency $461,000. Coverage also matched our goals with penetration in specific feeder markets including Northern and Southern California, online outlets, and air service cities.

  • The objective to reach national and regional markets was achieved in numerous outlets: Golf Digest, Fairways and Greens, Travelgolf.com, Golf Today Magazine and latimes.com.com.
  • The "local options" angle was achieved with resulting stories including side trips and information about unique attractions in each area the tour visited.
  • All sponsors and participants were encouraged to utilize the resulting stories and clips in their marketing efforts to extend the original impact with repeated frequency, i.e.: inclusion in email blasts, website testimonials, advertising and collateral materials.

Divine 9 Media Tour
If you like madness this is one event you'll appreciate! We'll let writer Jay Stuller give you the details:

Golf's Divine Nine Electric Corona Acid Test
By Jay Stuller, Sports Network Golf Correspondent

Carson City, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - At 6:44 and with the rising sun only a minute below Nevada's Pine Nut Mountains, a small bus packed with 16 men rolls through the Carson Valley Inn Hotel & Casino parking lot toward U.S. Route 395, on the start of a raucous 18-hole round of golf played over nine different public courses within a 25-mile radius, which will take more than 12 hours and end only after the transiting sun dips behind the Sierra Nevada.

In a gaudy pair of Madras shorts, a white polo shirt and a brown cap bearing the legend I Have Issues, Phil Weidinger quickly makes it official. "Gentlemen," says the 60-year-old public relations wizard and expedition leader, "who wants a beer?" With the hiss of caps popped on several bottles of Corona Extra, the 16th Divine Nine Media Tour is off and running, "Promoting," as Weidinger's business card states, "the serious business of fun."

This is Dinger's circus and, for the day, we are his monkeys.

Founded during the epochal mists of the Clinton Administration to publicize Carson Valley and Carson City golf (www.Divinenine.com) and tourism, the annual trek for writers and broadcasters has attained a near mythic reputation within the profession. An invitation to participate is something of an honor, however dubious, even while participation can evolve into a back-wrenching ordeal. And though most golfers would rather contract shingles than play a long round of golf, this particular journey is anything but dull.

Since speed is paramount if we're to finish before pitch dark, Weidinger has the group self-divide at each course, so that eight players tackle holes simultaneously, teeing off at the same time and dodging greenside shanks and scuds rocketing out of bunkers. Dinger forbids warm-ups, practice swings, plumb-bobbed putts and orders everyone to pick up after eight strokes and keep moving. "We're burning daylight," he barks at frequent intervals.

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The riders on this small party bus are plied largely with the aforementioned beer.

We are not burning weed, at least not like the passengers on Ken Kesey's fabled Further, the tie-died vehicle immortalized in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Instead, the riders on this small party bus are plied largely with the aforementioned beer, kept in an industrial-sized cooler that takes up two seats and is packed with 120 cans and bottles. While it used to be named Chad Hartley, after a Reno reporter who was "big, took up a lot of space and always full of beer," the title going forward may well fall upon another Tour veteran of substantial size, vocal volume and thirst.

Indeed, on a vehicle safely driven by a kindly and sober man named Sal, beer plus boys equals uninhibited behavior, almost Lord of the Flies on wheels. Unfortunately there were no female journalists on this year's Tour, who in the past had a tempering influence on general civility. With few restraints on uninhibited sharing, crude bodily functions and vulgar jokes flow as freely as did the Bud Light.

Speaking of jokes, the Tour also included one civilian, Darrell Schue of South Lake Tahoe, the winner of a contest for the best golf quip, sponsored by San Francisco's Hooked on Golf KNBR radio show. Most golf jokes are crude and misogynistic, and this one is no exception. Google the words golf joke, lesson and mouth, and it will pop right up.

In the Valley of the Old West.

As Weidinger's business card suggests, there's serious business behind this preposterously lengthy day of golf. Bill Henderson, the longtime director of sales at the Carson Valley Inn, is often credited with the idea of the Divine Nine Tour. "We used to bring in groups of golf and travel writers and they invariably gravitated to a couple of the more well-known courses in the area, missing others that have a lot of charm and character, and offer incredibly affordable green fees," explains Weidinger. "In what might have been an off- hand comment, Bill said ?Let's bring them in and make them play two holes at each of our nine courses.' And it was a great idea."

In competition with Reno and the Lake Tahoe areas, the Carson City Visitors Bureau (www.VisitCarsonCity.com) and the Carson Valley Visitors Authority (www.VisitCarsonValley.org) formed a cooperative to market the area's myriad attributes, which go far beyond golf. Nevada, of course, is well known for its 24-hour lifestyle of gaming, entertainment and clubs. Only a four-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, the Carson and Dayton Valleys are also an outdoor paradise, offering biking, hiking up the fabulous Clear Creek Trail, fishing, soaring, horseback riding and more. Accommodations? Try the incredibly comfortable beds at the Holiday Inn Express in Minden. Fine dining? The final stop on the post-round Divine Nine Tour was a superb family style meal at the J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room in Gardnerville.

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Even though we are men, the golf courses turned most of the journalists into Dinger's monkeys.

What's more, the Old West is quite alive and well in and around the Comstock Lode of silver ore, which in the second half of the 1800s led to the construction of the well-preserved Virginia City, just up the road from the Dayton Valley golf course, part of the Divine Nine. Other historic Old West attractions include the Virginia & Truckee Railroad and the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. And then there's Nevada's oldest drinking establishment, the Genoa Bar & Saloon, where you can almost imagine Mark Twain as a young reporter with the Territorial Enterprise, sitting at the bar taking notes for a column and pounding down a rye.

Wine festivals, concerts and other events are held year round, most of which are mentioned in Bill Henderson's Carson Valley Inn blog, which he posts every Wednesday morning at: http://carsonvalleyinn.blogspot.com

On the Road Again.

Henderson also keeps statistics for the Divine Nine Tour, tracking the yardage of the holes played and birdies. He also counts the number of beers consumed, lost golf balls and references to grazing sheep, all of which are interrelated. And even though we are men, the golf courses turned most of the journalists into Dinger's monkeys.

On the pieced-together track that would have been a par 73 and played at 6,350 yards, only one person broke 80, and that was Weidinger's 79. Just four players broke 90 and five were in triple digits. We lost 41 balls.

The losses are affordable, since at five of the Divine Nine courses the green fees are $45 or less, and the others are generally much less costly than courses near Reno, Lake Tahoe and Truckee. And each of the Carson Valley layouts has distinct merits. In short and in order of the Tour:

Designed by PGA Tour player Peter Jacobson and the late John Harbottle III, the Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes is a links-style course where the rolling fairways run up against the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, featuring wetlands, the Carson River and abundant wildlife.

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Dayton Valley is one of the more remote and yet best-known courses on the Divine Nine.

Up the road is the Genoa Lakes Resort Course, designed by Harbottle and golfer- broadcaster Johnny Miller, with numerous water hazards and scenic views of the greater Carson Valley.

We then played two holes at the Sunridge Golf Club, which is a fascinating blend of meadow, water and hillside holes.

Dayton Valley is one of the more remote and yet best-known courses on the Divine Nine, designed by Arnold Palmer and host to PGA Tour Qualifying events since 1995.

Run by the innovative and irrepressible Jim Kepler, Eagle Valley East and West are local treasures, serving senior citizens and young golfers alike with almost free play.

Overlooking the Carson River and flanked by bluffs, the Empire Ranch Golf Course is a 27-hole layout that sits on 250 acres, much of which is wetlands.

Spread out of 150 acres north of Carson City in the Sierra foothills is Silver Oak, a spacious, interesting and well-maintained layout.

Winding through tall cottonwoods along the Carson River is the much-beloved Carson Valley Golf Course, long owned by the family of Tom and Manya Brooks.

Like many other courses in the area, Carson Valley has added Foot Golf, which is played over 18 holes on a shortened area of the course, by kicking a soccer ball to a 21-inch cup. Fire up the bus fellas, since this could be an excuse for yet another trip.

P.S.: This homegrown media event resulted in 32 stories, 5 radio programs and 3 television features reaching more than 14 million people, with an advertising value of $72,000.