MCKAYSON NZ WOMEN ’S OPEN The champion has been crowned and the galleries have departed. The ropes and signage have been cleared away and Windross Farm has returned to normality. New Zealand’s first ever LPGA Event has come to an end. For the players and
It's not quite over for the people who brought the McKayson New Zealand Women's Open here in the first place.
For the team at The Clubhouse, it's time for the post mortems.
A “brutal debrief” in the words company founder, Michael Goldstein, the man largely responsible for getting the tournament across the line with the LPGA.
He's determined to make sure his brainchild is the best it can be.
That means putting everything under the microscope.
“It's the way you get better and you learn,” he told NZGM.
“It's all the subtle stuff. To run a good tournament there might be a thousand tasks or 500 tasks and the key is to work out how to improve on each of them. Because let's be frank – you get better at these things as you get experience and we're not that experienced.”
In fact, it was only two and a half years ago that Goldstein set up The Clubhouse, after spotting a hole in the New Zealand market.
He'd been working for a company in Hong Kong that promoted golf events around Asia, including a Rory versus Tiger exhibition as well as Challenge Tour events and a couple of small events.
“We got laughed out of every boardroom in New Zealand. Our title sponsor is from Korea – if it wasn’t for McKayson, the tournament wouldn’t have become a reality."
Until he had an epiphany. “We were constantly trying to work out how to bring new events to China or Hong Kong or Thailand or wherever it was.”
“When I stopped and thought about it, I realised one place I could do this is New Zealand. Even though it's a tiny market I was confident I'd make a success of it, so that's when I decided to go out to do it by myself.” Not that he's had to do it alone. His partner Mel Gimblett is also involved in The Clubhouse and with a background in marketing and hospitality at major events has been a major asset in the new venture.
The pair's first job was to sit down and run up a list of proposals.
One was the contract to run the New Zealand Open in Queenstown, a tournament they both had long been involved with. It says much for their reputation that they not only secured that event, but also the Asia Pacific Amateur Championships in Wellington, a joint initiative of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, The Masters and the R&A.
Especially given half of the staff at The Clubhouse don't even play golf, including Mel herself.
“She didn't even know one end of a golf club from the other three or four years ago and now she's in board meetings with the LPGA rules officials and advance officials talking about hazard lines and stuff like that. So for a non-golfer to do that is incredible.”
But the LPGA is the icing on the cake for Goldstein.
Convincing tour officials The Clubhouse could successfully host an event in New Zealand was always going to be a tough nut to crack.
Lydia Ko is an important part of the equation, having been a key factor in the LPGA’s motivation to grant the event tour status. The 20-year-old has repeatedly stated she intends to retire from the game by the time she’s 30, giving The Clubhouse a 10 year window to use her pulling power.
“When I first talked to them I was probably one of many tyre kickers that was bouncing around saying we want to bring an event to our country.”
“So it was probably only after about 12 to 18 months that they really got confidence in us. The first conversation we had back in 2015 – this is what we want to do - do you want to be part of it – back then it was really only a soft yes . But their support over the past two and a half years has been amazing.” It's been hard earned. Securing the event is one thing, getting the sponsorship is a whole different ball game.
“We got laughed out of every boardroom in New Zealand. Our title sponsor is from Korea – if it wasn't for McKayson, the tournament wouldn't have become a reality. But we're playing in a global tour so it's natural that we're getting sponsorship from a global company.”
“That was a pretty tough grind last year, when I was out knocking doors around New Zealand, but I can understand now with a bit of experience looking back why that was the case. We're a small country and the sponsorship market is very competitive so lesson number one was go global.”
It's not hard then to see why Goldstein is so hell-bent on getting it right.
While he's happy to give his team a pat on the back for a job well done, he's equally aware of the necessity to keep striving for better, to ensure the longevity of the event.
The importance of getting it right is why he recruited a Board of Directors, before the LPGA even confirmed the deal at the CME Group Tour Championship in November last year.
He's roped in some heavy hitters, with Phil Tataurangi and former New Zealand Hockey boss Hillary Poole on the board, and New Zealand Golf CEO Dean Murphy ex Officio. They all have high expectations. “We want to be the most iconic event on the LPGA Tour. At a board level we say we're not going to be the most iconic from having the most prize money, or having the best field. So it's all about making the experience the best it can be.”
They have a three year contract in place to prove that experience is worth the flight to New Zealand, for players, tour officials and stakeholders.
Lydia Ko is an important part of the equation, having been a key factor in the LPGA's motivation to grant the event tour status.
The 20-year-old has repeatedly stated she intends to retire from the game by the time she's 30, giving The Clubhouse a 10 year window to use her pulling power.
But Goldstein's not looking that far ahead.
“All our planning goes to three years and it doesn't go beyond that. That's not to say the tournament won't - and we want it to - but let's walk before we can run.”
Maybe a lie-down at the end of the walk might be a good idea too.
He and Mel have only had 14 days off this year, including weekends, so a bit of post-event R&R probably wouldn't go amiss.
But that's down at number 1001 on his list of things to do.
Managing Director of The Clubhouse Michael Goldstein.
(T-B) Brooke Henderson and Gaby Lopez during the McKayson New Zealand Women's Open at Windross Farm on September 28, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Lydia Ko waves at fans during the McKayson New Zealand Women's Open at Windross Farm.