Three years ago, my partner, Wayne, and I talked about starting a golf tournament at New London Country Club that would be a premier event on the Connecticut golf circuit.
We had been playing in CSGA events for a few years and the one we enjoyed the most was the Senior Four Ball which was played in the late summer, generally at a top venue, such as the private course at Lake of Isles where it was held for a couple of years. We thought that we could run a similar tournament at NLCC that would attract some of the best senior players in the state and do some things that CSGA was either unable or unwilling to do in order to attract players. Our goal was to run a tournament that would create a buzz that reflected well on NLCC, would show off the gem that is NLCC and maybe make a few bucks for the club.
We asked ourselves what kind of attraction could we present that would make this a must play event for Connecticut senior golfers. The obvious lure would be the golf course itself, which Superintendent Dan Rogers always has in peak condition for the fall. An attractive layout with pure and speedy greens would certainly lure players who rarely get a chance to play on surfaces with stimpmeter readings in the double digits.
We also thought that a guaranteed prize list with a top prize in four figures would provide a great hook to those who had become disenchanted with CSGA’s prize list. CSGA runs a great tourney but often looks like they wouldn’t give away the time of day if they owned a clock factory.
We didn’t have the prestige of the CSGA but we certainly could offer an attractive prize list that attracted both low and high handicappers to the event. So we decided to make the first prize in both gross and net divisions a whopping one thousand dollars in pro shop credit which would make it among the largest prize lists in Connecticut golfing circles. Our pro Kevin Shea added to the prize bonanza by donating significant prizes that we could offer to players at no cost; we added a cash skins pool and a free lunch of burgers and dogs.
Well, nobody ever called me and Wayne marketing wizards, but what we lacked in expertise, we made up for in pure hustle as we traversed the state, spreading the news of the tourney to every golf venue that would allow us to post a flier. I began the construction of a data base trying to collect e-mail addresses from potential players so that we could contact them directly along with all the PGA pros in the state, who we hoped would get the word out and encourage participation.
Did it work? Well, yes and no. The first year we assembled a field of more than 40 teams only to have it rain heavily to the point we had to postpone resulting in a loss of a number of teams who could not play on the makeup date. Still, we had managed to attract more than 40 teams and there was the beginning of a buzz.
We had some of the top players in the state entered and NLCC members formed a good number of teams. But there was a gap that continues to exist. We haven’t attracted a large number of higher handicap players despite the extensive prize list with its big four-figure first prize and we have not done as well with local golfers. We expected the bulk of our target audience to come from Shenny, Pequot, Elmridge, Norwich, Clinton, and the rest. Instead, we have more folks from around the state. Why? I have no idea. But if you think you know, please feel free to pass along your thoughts.
This year’s field has a similar demographic to this point. It’s a great field with a host of top players but short on higher handicaps and locals. If you are still interested in playing just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com or call the pro shop at NLCC at 860-439-1524. The tourney is on Wednesday, October 5 at NLCC. I guarantee a great golf course, a top shelf prize list, and an appreciation for your support.
Jim O’Neill is a member at New London Country Club.