ClubCorp Classic Q&A with ClubCorp CEO David Pillsbury
Tickets are now on sale for the inaugural ClubCorp Classic presented by Choctaw Casinos & Resorts, April 19-24 at Las Colinas Country Club. The unique format pairing PGA TOUR Champions golfers with sports and entertainment stars is two tournaments within one, promising a memorable event with celebrity sightings, a week of special activities and great golf.
The lineup of 50 celebrities features Emmitt Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Pudge Rodriguez, Annika Sorenstam, Ray Allen, Brian Urlacher, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Mike Modano, Larry the Cable Guy, Alfonso Ribeiro, Anthony Anderson, Brian Baumgartner and more. Top names and major winners from the PGA TOUR Champions include John Daly, Vijay Singh, Mark Calcavecchia, and Colin Montgomerie.
In anticipation of the upcoming event, ClubCorp CEO David Pillsbury joined us to discuss the inaugural ClubCorp Classic.
JAY BETSILL: The charitable impact is such an important aspect of the PGA TOUR Champions events, can you talk about that for the inaugural event?
DAVID PILLSBURY: I’ll start by saying we’ve got an amazing lineup of sponsors. It’s incredible how our presenting sponsor Choctaw and several other great companies have come out to support the event, so we are off to an amazing start. I think in terms of gross sales, we’ll be one of the top PGA TOUR Champions events in our first year, if not the top event. We are going to have some meaningful charity dollars and the week itself will be a real shot in the arm for the Greater Dallas Metroplex and, in particular, Irving and Las Colinas. We’re very excited about the first year and very excited about The First Tee of Greater Dallas, The First Tee of Fort Worth, and Momentous Institute as our charities. We are doing some cool work with other local charities around Tickets for Charity where we give them tickets to sell and they get to retain money from the tickets. We will ultimately have a real engine for philanthropy and local economic activity as this thing evolves.
JB: You mentioned the Momentous Institute and, obviously the event is in Las Colinas, do you envision the ClubCorp Classic filling the void left by not having the AT&T Byron Nelson down the street?
DP: 100 percent. The Salesmanship Club and Momentous Institute are our very close partners. We are hooked at the hip as the host at TPC Craig Ranch with the AT&T Byron Nelson three weeks after this event. This really begins a three week festival of golf in Dallas. This is the kickoff and Byron Nelson is the bookend (the Korn Ferry Tour event at Texas Rangers Golf Club is in between). Hopefully it is three weeks of great fun for everybody watching the best players in the world. We are synchronized and are very involved in helping to raise money for the Momentous Institute. In fact that’s why we named them our charity here to keep us all very much aligned.
JB: During the ClubCorp Classic unveiling this past August, part of the big announcement was that 10 ClubCorp members would be able to participate through a qualifying system that includes regional and national events to earn a spot to play during the official tournament rounds. How was the response from your members?
DP: It has just been amazing and it was a hurry-up offense since we had a short runway to get this thing done. We did regional qualifying events and they all filled up and they are finishing up over the next couple of weeks. Then the championship will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday of tournament week at Hackberry Creek Country Club where we will award 10 “Tour Cards.” These are collectible, metal cards. Your dream as a player is to get your tour card, so guess what, these 10 players will get their tour cards presented to them at a function on Wednesday night at the ClubCorp Classic. It’s a very big deal and I don’t think anyone has ever done this before. The 10 players will get to compete on Friday and Saturday with the low gross competing on Sunday. We’ll be handing out three trophies on Sunday night: One for the PGA TOUR Champions winner, one for the celebrity champion and one for the ClubCorp Classic member champion. Think about being a member of a ClubCorp club and being able to play your way onto a professional tour, that’s pretty cool.
JB: Another thing that speaks to excitement of the ClubCorp Classic is the level of celebrities that are involved including Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, and so many more. How does this further validate your event and how important is it to have Mike Flaskey as a part of the event?
DP: The magic that Mike brings is the incredible relationship that he has with this group of celebrities: Pudge Rodriguez, Tim Brown, Annika Sorenstam, Ray Allen. I mean this is a ridiculous lineup of celebrities and that is all about Mike, that’s what he does. He has done a fantastic job and that’s what makes this a great partnership and what makes this tournament unique. When you bring Mike Flaskey and his relationship with the celebrity community, the PGA TOUR Champions and our members together at a property like Las Colinas Country Club, you’ve got one plus one plus equals about 12!
JB: There is a big kickoff event complete with a big concert at the nearby Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory on Tuesday of tournament week. Is that strictly a private tournament or can anyone attend?
DP: There will be a big Pro-Am pairings party and then we open the gates to the public who can buy tickets to come in and enjoy the concert. We’ll have Cole Swindell and it’s going to be quite a night and that’s just the start of the week to set the pace for the week. (Tickets range from $34.50 to $64 and are available at concerts.livenation.com/event/0C005C440185611B)
JB: Earlier we discussed filling the void left by the AT&T Byron Nelson for the Las Colinas community. Do you envision this filling the party atmosphere void as well?
DP: There will be the Choctaw Club on No. 17. We’ll have a DJ on the driving range everyday including during the competition which the PGA TOUR Champions has approved. It’s going to be a vibe, this is going to be the place to hangout. It’s going to be classy, it’s going to be clean, there won’t be long lines for food or restrooms. We are limiting the number of fans to 10,000 per day so people need to buy their tickets now on Ticketmaster. They’re $35 for one day or $75 for the week, best value in town.
JB: In addition to being the CEO and running the huge ClubCorp company, how hands-on have you been on the operation side of the tournament and how proud are you of how it is turning out for year one?
DP: Well I have been very hands-on and I am very proud of how things are going. It takes a village to make something like this work. It has been an incredible team effort. I am on a weekly call with a host committee of club members along with the mayor of Irving and they have been amazing. The members have embraced this and it is a big effort. We are going to have 800 volunteers and that’s what makes this whole thing work. Without the volunteers, we couldn’t do it because it’s an incredible production. We are going to be on live television for four hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; that’s pretty impressive for a PGA TOUR Champions event since it’s usually a two-hour window. This is a big deal and the ratings are going to be incredible because of the players and the celebrities, they move the needle.
Tickets for the competitive rounds, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 22, 23 and 24 are available online at clubcorpclassic.com/tickets/ with prices ranging from $35 for a single-day ticket to $75 for a 3-day grounds pass.