A LONG TERM VIEW
THE CLUBHOUSE PART 2 Familiarity breeds contempt. But it can also inspire confidence. The latter was the case for New Zealand Golf CEO Dean Murphy, when it came to the ability of The Clubhouse to take charge of September’s New Zealand Women’s Open.
The second part in our story on The Clubhouse and Michael Goldstein.
Michael Goldstein had only recently established the company, when it was handed the deal to promote and take operational control of New Zealand's first ever LPGA event.
On the face of it, it seemed like a big gamble on New Zealand Golf Inc's part.
But scratch a little deeper and the reason for Murphy's confidence is clearer.
“A lot of people have said that to me,” he told NZGM.
“But to me it wasn't new and I was very keen to give the license to The Clubhouse really early on. I've known Michael for five or six years and worked with him a lot. He and I had talked about (attaining LPGA status) a lot. I had faith in what The Clubhouse were doing.” The timing was also key. Tuohy Associates had previously had the license and garnered regular praise for the standard of the event throughout its tenure in Christchurch.
However, the license had expired, offering the opportunity to try something new.
“That was a nice, elegant way to transition. We were pretty happy with Bob (Tuohy) as well. TA had done a great job for women's golf for a long period of time – it was just everything really lined up. We really wanted to take the tournament to the next level and Michael shared that vision. It wasn't a reflection of where TA were at but that we were looking to do something different and I thought The Clubhouse were the people to do it.”
It wasn't just talk that convinced Murphy The Clubhouse was up to the task.
He had seen both Goldstein and his partner Mel Gimblett in action from an operational sense, as key members of Tournament Director Michael Glading's team at the New Zealand Men's Open in Queenstown.
In return, Goldstein contracted Glading as the Client Services Director for the LPGA event, tasking him with convincing players to come to New Zealand and then managing what their experience was when they were here.
“Everybody knows that one of Michael's great strengths is how good he is with people,” said Goldstein.
“Player experience is a huge part of an LPGA tournament so Michael was a really important part of our team.”
For some, the switch of roles for Goldstein and Glading has the hint of a coup, with the apprentice seemingly trying to muscle in on the master's territory. Could Goldstein be about to usurp his mentor and take over the men's event?
Goldstein finds the suggestion laughable.
“Milbrook Tournaments organise the men's tournament and we help them. Michael Glading is the Tournament Director and we work for him. The Clubhouse helps with tournament operations and marketing and sales. I've worked with Michael for six or seven years and am going back into that mode now for next year's event.”
Dean Murphy has no doubt the Goldstein/Glading partnership and if anything expects the two opens to benefit from their relationship.
“We used all of that contingency plus some, but some of the suppliers were amazing in terms of what we needed to do for Monday. With (the extra day) there are some costs that you can’t get around, including having to cater for another four or five hundred people.”
“I think the partnerships we now have with the men's and women's together – you'll only see them get closer over time. My whole ethics around these championships is partnering with the right people to get things done. The men's event is fantastic and the women's start was good too which shows what can happen if you let go of the ego a bit and share the responsibility with very good, capable people who are driven and have good connections. We're in pretty good space compared to where we were five or six years ago.”
Murphy's faith appears to have been rewarded in spades.
It's still early in the “brutal debrief” promised by Goldstein last month, but the initial feedback from the sponsors suggests there's not too much to worry about.
The team from The Clubhouse held one on one debriefs with each of the major stakeholders, including title sponsor McKayson, ATEED, Major Events and New Zealand Golf inc., and Goldstein said the overarching response has been positive.
“Whichever way you look at it, I think it was an unqualified success,” said Murphy.
“It was a fantastic event - great field, great coverage, great venue, a really good winner, we had great crowds - so every area that we look at or are concerned about was a great success. Yeah we had some weather problems but on the bright side the sponsors got five days of TV coverage out of it.”
The only negative, if you want to be hyper-critical, was the tournament's bottom line.
“It's going to be a challenging financial result,” admits Goldstein.
“Going to an extra day was difficult for us but for year one of an event it's a good starting point. Breaking even was the aim – we won't do that but won't be too far away.”
The result was cruel given much of it can be blamed on the inclement weather. But it could have been much worse if not for a sensible business plan. The Clubhouse ran a contingency fund just in case something went awry.
“We used all of that contingency plus some, but some of the suppliers were amazing in terms of what we needed to do for Monday. With (the extra day) there are some costs that you can't get around, including having to cater for another four or five hundred people.”
His pragmatic attitude to the financial result comes as no surprise to Murphy.
“A lot of promoters are about the here and now but Michael has a more of a long term view. He was a key part of the tourism strategy we wrote back in 2012 and understands what's good for New Zealand and the role golf can play. Come three years' time, hopefully we're in a really good spot and financially doing well.
One little fly in the ointment on that front could be the change of Government.
Under National, the women's open was granted 2.7 million dollars in taxpayer funds for the first three years of the event, with the men's open to get 2.8 million over the same period.
Whether the new Labour/New Zealand First/Greens coalition will share National's vision of the tournaments' economic value is the great unknown.
But Murphy's not overly concerned at this stage, with the tournaments unlikely to be on the Government's radar.
“I‘m sure we're a long way down the list. The good news is we have three year contracts in place and I'm sure they have a lot of things to worry about.”
Michael Glading. Lydia Ko acknowledges the crowd during the New Zealand Women's Open at Windross Farm on September 30, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand.