Back in February, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Northern Trust Open outside Los Angeles at the historic Riviera Country Club. It provided me with a unique perspective on the PGA Tour and how their operations drastically differ in compared to the other major sports entities in this country. The biggest difference between a PGA event and the other major sports is all of the proceeds from the tournaments go to local charities. The PGA Tour has donated over $2 billion in charitable giving, $1 billion of that in the last eight years.
The PGA relies on thousands of volunteers each week to run these tournaments in various capacities. On any given hole out on the PGA Tour, besides the players and caddies competing, there aren’t any paid employees managing the tournament. The Northern Trust Open relies on 1,800 volunteers throughout the week to run the tournament, many in high-profile positions that are vital in the operations. From the marshals controlling the crowd, the walking scorers reporting the official score to the folks tracking the distance of each shot, all of these positions are people volunteering their precious time so the PGA can make an impact on the local community.
The Northern Trust Open and the NBA All-Star week are held on the same weekend but could not be more opposite sporting events. Besides a few interactive stations and video boards showing highlights throughout the round, there are almost no traditional production elements. There is no music, no dramatic introductions featuring Vanilla Ice and no videos asking the fans to kiss each other. In fact, they don’t even allow people to take pictures with their cellphones.
Golf is a traditional sport and they have continued to hold that tradition to this day. The PGA Tour is largely a self-governed sport, where even the players report themselves on rule infractions. In a world where sports are constantly pushing the limits, the PGA Tour operates with a different mindset and is in a league of their own.