The Club­house

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

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - FEATURE - WORDS BY GARY DENVIR

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.

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