Smith named PLAYERS executive director

Rice moves to new role with TOUR


The PGA TOUR has named Lee Smith the new executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship.

Smith replaces Jared Rice, who has served as executive director of THE PLAYERS and Senior Vice President, Tournament Revenue For Championship Management since November 2016. Rice has taken on a new role, leading business development for the TOUR’s Championship Management portfolio of events.

“I look forward to joining a team that has put together a great event under Jared’s leadership and taking a great product and maybe just making it a little bit better,” Smith said Tuesday.

Smith has been with the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, for the past five years. There, he was instrumental in the club’s hosting the 2019 and 2021 Northern Trust FedEx Cup playoff events.

“I think that certainly provided a nice foundation for this opportunity at THE PLAYERS Championship,” he said.

In fact, being named executive director of the tournament may be seen as the culmination of his extensive career to date.

At Liberty National, he has been overseeing an onsite staff of nearly 150 people and has secured the LPGA Tour’s inaugural Mizuho Americas Open, which kicks off May 29. In fact, he will stay on to see that event through to its conclusion in June before making the permanent transition to Northeast Florida and THE PLAYERS.

In addition to his experience with Liberty National, Smith has been a key member of the TPC Network since 2008, serving as head golf professional at TPC Sugarloaf near Atlanta, general manager of TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas and working also at TPC Scottsdale. He has also been a Class A member of the PGA of America for more than two decades.

“My time with the TPC Network and Liberty National Golf Club has been a wonderful chapter of my career, and I cannot thank those teams enough for their unwavering support of this opportunity,” said Smith. “I’m excited to transition to Ponte Vedra Beach to help build on the tremendous momentum THE PLAYERS Championship has established in recent years.”

Throughout his career, Smith said he’s always had his eye on THE PLAYERS — “the big one,” as he called it. He said THE PLAYERS is special because it’s the strongest field in golf, because of its iconic venue — including “the most famous hole in golf” — and because of the experience it provides the players, the partners and the fans.

“We don’t just want to be the best in golf,” he said. “We want to be the best in sports and entertainment.”

“We are delighted for Lee to transition into his new role as executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship, where he will be a tremendous leader for our tournament team as well as the Northeast Florida community,” said Matt Rapp, senior vice president of championship management. “His vast years of experience leading TPC properties through championship events, while initiating future growth opportunities, made him a perfect selection for this vital role at the PGA TOUR.”

Rapp praised Rice for his leadership over the years.

“Jared’s tenure leading THE PLAYERS has allowed the PGA TOUR’s premier championship to grow into one of the elite global events in sports,” Rapp said. “Under his leadership, THE PLAYERS produced a first-class experience for our players and fans, and we’re looking forward to his next chapter in growing the Championship Management part of our business.”

Rice orchestrated the tournament’s transition from May to March in 2019, guided THE PLAYERS through the 2020 cancellation in the wake of the pandemic, doubled the number of national partners and furthered the event’s long-standing charitable impact, including a $2 million gift last fall to fund the complete redesign and expansion of the Nemours Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Jacksonville.

THE PLAYERS Championship is set to return to TPC Sawgrass on March 12-17, 2024, which will mark a significant milestone for the tournament: its 50th anniversary. It’s an event for which Smith is already planning.

“We’re certainly prepared to pull out all the stops and make it as special as a 50th anniversary deserves,” he said.

For further information on THE PLAYERS Championship, go to Fans are also encouraged to follow THE PLAYERS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for tournament updates.