With Phil Mickelson headlining and back in attendance, Richmond’s annual get-together with PGA celebrities is back in full swing.
The Dominion Energy Charity Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event, kicks off this week on the James River Course at the Country Club of Virginia. Organizers expect this sixth year of the tournament to be the biggest yet in terms of corporate support and revenue.
For Steve Schoenfeld, executive director of DECC, this year’s event will feel almost normal after an unusual year in 2020 when the pandemic prevented the crowds from attending, hurting sponsorship sales and bottom line.
“’Almost normal’ is a good description,” says Schönfeld about this year’s feeling. “The fact that we can accommodate spectators on site is a big deal.”
The week’s celebrations begin on Wednesday with the start of the two-day Pro-Am, where four of the top sponsors play with the tour’s top players.
The week ends with the three-day 54-hole tournament starting Friday with many golf legends such as Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh and John Daly. Tour Champions only offers players 50 and over.
Mickelson is making his second appearance at DECC this year, after winning it on his first go-around last year – albeit not in front of an audience.
Schönfeld said the “Phil Effect” was a legitimate force to generate interest from viewers and sponsors.
“If Phil comes it’ll certainly give us a boost,” he said. “What happened this week after we announced we had more calls for hospitality packages. And the total redemption of tickets will be higher in the past because Phil is coming. “
But even before Mickelson’s participation was announced last week, interest in sponsorship had skyrocketed, said Schönfeld. That is compared to last year’s pandemic-dampened event and even before the pandemic.
“This year we recovered in a way that I hadn’t imagined,” said Schönfeld. “It will be our best year so far.”
Total sales for this year’s event will exceed $ 7 million for the first time. This is ensured by 125 corporate sponsors, including the leading sponsors Riverstone Group, VCU Health and Visit Henrico.
Premier sponsors will receive, among other things, teams in the Pro-Am, luxurious chalets with a view of the 18th green and 30-second spots that will be broadcast on the golf channel while the tournament is being broadcast.
Pro-Am sales are also at an all-time high this year, said Schönfeld. Forty-four players play in the Pro-Am on Wednesday and Thursday, surpassing all previous years.
Pro-Am attendance is part of DECC’s top sponsorship packages, and Schoenfeld said other groups only opted for one Pro-Am team at $ 16,800 per resident.
“The priceless thing is that you spend five hours on the course with one of the best golfers in the world,” he said.
Markel is the main sponsor of Pro-Am, which was renamed this year in honor of Tom Farrell, former longtime CEO of Dominion Energy, who passed away earlier this year. Farrell was a key figure in bringing the tournament to Richmond.
Dominion Energy remains the title sponsor and has signed up for this course since the tournament was founded in 2016 until at least 2029.
CCV has also agreed to host the tournament until 2029, another sign of its success in Richmond.
Schönfeld emphasized the other advantage of the tournament success: the charitable component. To date, the DECC has raised more than $ 5 million for charitable purposes.
This year has the chance to produce the highest amount donated in any year, although this could be somewhat hampered by the increased cost of goods and services.
Like many other industries, the DECC had to go through pandemic-era hiccups in certain supply chains and labor pools, making it more difficult and expensive to find items and labor.
On the supply side, Schönfeld said artificial turf carpeting for the facility was hard to come by, as was golf carts. He said the tournament’s food and beverage and safety vendors had to work harder than ever this year to find enough workers for the event.
While these vendors struggled to find paid workers, Schönfeld said the DECC had no problem recruiting volunteers for the tournament for free.
“We did a great job with the volunteers,” he says. “We’re at 1,100, which is our normal number.”
The DECC is part of the tour playoffs that lead to the Schwab Cup championship in Phoenix next month.
At DECC, Bernhard Langer is the Tour’s Money Leader, closely followed by Jim Furyk, Jerry Kelly, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els. Mickelson is 26th on the money list, but has only played four events this year.