Organizers search for a main sponsor for AJGA event

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The success of the American Junior Golf Association's first tournament last summer at the Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau will be a hard act to follow.

But tournament organizers are ready for the challenge.

"They set the bar very high for themselves," said Andrew Greenfield, who coordinated the Dalhousie Junior Championship for the AJGA. "It doesn't surprise me they went all out last year, and I have no doubt it will get better."

The 2007 event won the AJGA's award for tournament of the year, an award given for the event that excels in areas such as volunteer support, fund-raising and charitable contribution to the community, media coverage and quality of experience for the players.

Can it be improved?

Organizers plan to follow many of the same steps in 2008, but the pursuit of a presenting sponsor is the primary goal of the spring.

"That's what we're working on right now," said Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson, one of the tournament's co-chairmen. "Obviously Pepsi, Montgomery Bank and the Convention and Visitors Bureau stepped up in a big way last year as the inaugural sponsors.

"We're trying to branch out and hoping the success we had last year will really draw some good participation from the sponsorship standpoint. We look forward to nailing that down because obviously that's an important part."

Knudtson said the CVB, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, made an exceptionally large commitment last year and will offer support in an "ancillary way" this year. While the leading sponsors last year kicked in fractions of the $30,000, the golf club itself also made the largest commitment of finances and resources, which resulted in its role as the title sponsor.

But Dalhousie general manager Andy Deiro noted the success of the Dalhousie Junior Championship included much more than the golf club's effort.

"Without question, we didn't do it all," he said. "All the officials with the AJGA realize what this small town did. There are bigger markets that wish they had what we have.

"We had 175 volunteers; some events are lucky to have 25. We were thrilled that a lot of kids and parents and staff acknowledged what we did was special."

Knudtson, who co-chairs the tourney with Dalhousie managing member Cord Dombrowski, said he also heard from participants about the hospitality of Cape Girardeau.

The formula for success included -- beyond volunteers -- one of the AJGA's largest fields, fund-raising of more than $20,000 for the AJGA's scholarship program as well as local high school golf programs, and events for the tournament participants that included a fish fry sponsored by the Optimist Clubs of Southeast Missouri and a throwed rolls contest at a dinner sponsored by Lambert's Cafe.

Deiro hopes the opportunity to be linked with a successful event that involves the community and gives back through charity will lure a sponsor to contribute the $30,000 to have its name in the title.

"It covers a good portion of expenses," Deiro said. "Moving above and beyond that allows us to give more money to high school programs.

"One thing we learned is that you have exposure at all 82 events, every event around the country."

That wasn't the only place in AJGA circles where Dalhousie had exposure.

Tournament of the year

At the awards banquet in Georgia in February, the Dalhousie Junior Championship was honored as setting the standard for AJGA events.

"It's a terrific honor for the community to be awarded that," Knudtson said Friday after returning from a golf trip to Alabama with his son.

"To achieve it in just one year," Greenfield said, "is impressive. You need to have an all-around event. You have to able to hit on all the areas, and Dalhousie was able to shine in all the areas."

While tournament officials are working on landing a title sponsor, other preparations for the 2008 event are falling into place. This year's event, which will be Aug. 11 through 14, is the second of a three-year commitment. The 2009 tournament in Cape Girardeau will be the AJGA's prestigious Rolex Tournament of Champions, which takes place around July 4 each year.

"If we had that big sponsor, we would be in cruise mode," Deiro said of the 2008 tourney. "It's keeping us on our toes for right now, but we're ready for the event."

Deiro expects this year's event to include many of the same functions off the golf course -- the fish fry at Dalhousie Water's Edge, the Lambert's throwed rolls -- as well as the lead-up events such as local qualifying tournaments and the junior-amateur tournament.

"Some things we're going to fine-tune," Deiro said, "but we're going to have only 10 to 20 percent of the players from last year return to play, so it will be a whole new crew and it's not like it's going to be stale."

Added Knudtson: "I think the sheer knowledge of what we can expect from the American Junior Golf Association and knowing the resources they bring will really allow us just to build on that knowledge of what we can do.

"I would like to think we'll better hone our skills from an administrative standpoint," the mayor continued, "and just continue to roll out that good old-fashioned Midwestern hospitality, and hopefully that will again provide a great, great week. I can't wait."

Even if a presenting sponsor doesn't step forward, Greenfield has confidence in the community and the tournament committee.

"I knew the tournament was going to be something special the first time I came to Cape Girardeau last April," Greenfield said. "I was sitting with Cord, Andy and the mayor, and I knew because of the emphasis on community involvement.

"With what they were able to get done last year, and with the experience from that first year, I think it's only going to get better."

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