Since being named executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship in December, Jared Rice has been preparing for a 2017 tournament that will debut some significant changes to the Stadium Course.
With less than two weeks to go until THE PLAYERS Championship, this must be crunch time for you. What is the main focus of your tournament preparations?
THE PLAYERS is the best fan experience in golf, and our team is constantly thinking like a fan and examining ways to improve what it means to attend the event. We have a talented team that is passionate, committed and competitive – all working together to produce the very best for our players, sponsors and fans.
You became executive director amid some of the biggest renovations and upgrades to the Stadium Course in the past decade. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting ready for THE PLAYERS Championship 2017?
In the beginning, it was the transition period when I was still working both roles. We’ve since hired someone, so now I think it is maintaining the hectic schedule. Fortunately for me, I work with some great people who I trust to get the job done. All of us at the PGA Tour look at this as our “Super Bowl” and every employee has a part in making it the “Showcase of Excellence” it is.
What do you think will surprise returning visitors the most about the course changes?
Those who are familiar with the course will be extremely surprised and impressed with renovations that took place over the past year. The transformation of hole 12 into a drivable par 4 is by far the most obvious change on the course, followed by hole 6 and 7. New mounding throughout the course allows better viewing vantages for fans, and the openness we created really showcases the significance of the tournament.
You have an extensive background in sports marketing, having worked for everyone from the Anaheim Angels and Mighty Ducks to the Detroit Red Wings. Does a golf tournament present its own set of unique challenges in terms of marketing and promoting the event?
Like all sports, golf reaches a broad spectrum of demographics, so the marketing mix has to reflect that. Sports teams like the Anaheim Angels, and the Mighty Ducks, can focus most of their marketing efforts on local markets because that is their main fan base. Last year nearly 55 percent of ticket purchasers for THE PLAYERS came from outside the five-county area. That means we are constantly reshaping our marketing campaign to reach those national and international spectators. We see what worked, what didn’t, and go from there.
What kind of economic impact does THE PLAYERS Championship have on Northeast Florida?
Half of our ticket purchases originate from outside Northeast Florida, and many of our regional hospitality partners are hosting guests nationally and internationally. In addition, we’re seeing a greater number of national companies based outside of our region activating at PLAYERS. Collectively, this means more out-of-town guests are coming to Northeast Florida and staying in our hotels, eating at top local restaurants and enjoying what makes our community so special. This has a great effect on our business environment and our ability to impact local charity – for which we generated $8.5 million for Northeast Florida charities last year.
You’re originally from New Hampshire. What is your favorite part of living on the First Coast?
Like many of the national and international guests attending the tournament, we discovered an amazing community that’s active and vibrant. Not having snow on the ground six months a year helps that!