Q & A

Brian Fla­jole, Tour­na­ment Di­rec­tor Boe­ing Clas­sic

Golf Today Northwest - - News - In­ter­view con­ducted by Craig Smith

Brian Fla­jole is the new tour­na­ment di­rec­tor of the Boe­ing Clas­sic, suc­ceed­ing Michelle De­lancy. Golf Today North­west sat down with him at his of­fice on the Vir­ginia Ma­son cam­pus on First Hill to talk about his back­ground and the tour­na­ment that will be played Aug. 25-27 at The Club at Sno­qualmie Ridge.

Q Com­ing back to Seat­tle is a home­com­ing for you be­cause you went to Juanita High School, right?

A It is. Our fam­ily lived real close to Juanita High. My wife Kay and I were high-school sweet­hearts. I grad­u­ated in 1978 and was stu­dent-body vice-pres­i­dent. My best sport was baseball, and I played catcher. I played quar­ter­back in foot­ball but got hurt my se­nior year. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, I went to WSU and ma­jored in com­mu­ni­ca­tions. It's sort of a real home­com­ing be­cause Kay and I are rent­ing a condo in Juanita. I ad­mit that I'm stunned at how high real-es­tate prices are in Seat­tle and the East­side.

Q Tell us about your fam­ily.

A My late fa­ther, Ken, worked for UPS. My mother, Colleen, now lives at Tril­ogy, the over-55 com­mu­nity out­side Red­mond. I have two broth­ers and one sis­ter and they all live in the Puget Sound area. My wife Kay and I have three kids – Tyler, 27, Sam, 26 and Carly, 21. Carly just grad­u­ated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and that's where Sam went to col­lege. Tyler went to Cal­i­for­nia-davis. Tyler and Sam work in high tech, with Sam in Los An­ge­les and Tyler in San Francisco.

Q Is it true that Gary Wright, the re­tired and re­spected Sea­hawks me­dia-re­la­tions pro, started you in your ca­reer in sports ad­min­is­tra­tion?

A Yes, Gary has been a long-time men­tor of mine. I orig­i­nally helped him coach a kids' bas­ket­ball team when I was home from col­lege. My younger brother Doug and one of Gary's sons were on the team. Gary said, “Why don't you come and work for me?” He of­fered me an in­tern­ship at the Sea­hawks. I worked there in 1983. That was Chuck Knox's first year and the Sea­hawks made the play­offs for the first time. We beat Den­ver in the wild­card game and then up­set Miami in the Or­ange Bowl. We got back from Miami and I went to a Pi­o­neer Square bar that had a long line out­side it of happy Sea­hawk fans. I had my game cre­den­tial around my neck and the em­ployee at the door spot­ted it and said, “You were at the game? Come on in!” The win put the Sea­hawks in the AFC ti­tle game. We had beaten Oak­land twice in the reg­u­lar sea­son but lost to the Raiders.

Q You were the PR man for the Ta­coma Stars of the Ma­jor In­door Soc­cer League for much of the 1980s. Talk about it.

A It was fun. We had some com­pet­i­tive teams, es­pe­cially those coached by Alan Hinton. Some of the no­table play­ers were Preki and Steve Zun­gul who was nick­named “The Lord of all In­doors.” We were draw­ing about 12,000 peo­ple a game. The 1986-87 team led Dal­las 3 games to 1 in the cham­pi­onship se­ries, but then lost the se­ries. We had a 3-1 lead late in Game 7 at home, but Dal­las scored two quick goals to send the game to over­time and then won it.

Q You were the “right-hand man” of Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton ath­letic di­rec­tor Mike Lude in the early 1990s. Tell us about it.

A Yes, Mike had a huge in­flu­ence on me as my of­fice ad­joined Mike's of­fice and he could just lean back and holler to me. One big mem­ory is of his game-day walks on the morn­ings of home foot­ball games. He was full of ner­vous en­ergy and would walk

through all the ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties. He would straighten chairs and wipe chalk­boards. My job was to bring the donuts and write down his di­rec­tives to coaches and staff such as, “Clean this mess up!” Then he would have cof­fee with Coach Don James and talk about the game that was just hours away and I would type up all the notes.

You were Lude’s as­sis­tant at the Block­buster Bowl then took it over your­self, right?

Yes. I joined Mike when he be­came ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Block­buster Bowl in sub­ur­ban Miami. Then he be­came in­terim ath­letic di­rec­tor at Auburn Uni­ver­sity. He wanted me to go with him, but I had al­ready moved my fam­ily across the coun­try and wanted to stay in Florida. I re­placed Mike as head of the Block­buster Bowl.

How did you wind up in the golf busi­ness?

I went to work for Ray­com Sports and then their golf divi­sion got bought out by the Bruno Event Man­age­ment Team. I be­came a vice-pres­i­dent at Bruno and lived in the Sacra­mento area. I over­saw sev­eral events a year, ev­ery­thing from PGA and LPGA events to Web.com Tour tour­na­ments. I was in charge of the 2015 U.S. Se­nior Open and the 2016 U.S. Women's Open. I was in­ter­ested in re­turn­ing to the North­west and Gary Wright told me about the Boe­ing Clas­sic job be­com­ing open and I ap­plied.

Any big changes in mind for the Boe­ing Clas­sic?

Not many for this year as it is a great event! I also want to go through this year's tour­na­ment with our team and see how ev­ery­thing has been work­ing and then de­cide on any changes. How­ever, one change I want to make this year is to get rid of the shot­gun start for the Korean Air Pro-am. I want groups tee­ing off No.1 and No.10 to have an­nounc­ers in­tro­duc­ing each par­tic­i­pant. They de­serve it.

Is it true that 80 per­cent of the vol­un­teers at the Boe­ing Clas­sic are re­turnees from pre­vi­ous years?

Yes. We're proud of that, too. We couldn't put on the tour­na­ment with­out them. Some of the vol­un­teer's time their va­ca­tions so they can be avail­able dur­ing tour­na­ment week. The Boe­ing Clas­sic has raised more than $6 mil­lion for char­ity since its in­cep­tion in 2005. That wouldn't be pos­si­ble with­out vol­un­teers.

Who are among the golfers who have com­mit­ted to play this year?

De­fend­ing cham­pion Bern­hard Langer has com­mit­ted to play and so have Steve Stricker and Miguel An­gel Jimenez. It will be the first time in the tour­na­ment for Stricker and Jimenez. Those are three of the big names. We're ex­pect­ing a strong field as al­ways be­cause the tour­na­ment has such a great rep­u­ta­tion. Play­ers like play­ing in front of big crowds and they like the course, The Club at Sno­qualmie Ridge (pre­vi­ously named TPC

Sno­qualmie Ridge). They also like the cooler North­west cli­mate in Au­gust. What about John Daly? Haven't heard. I have heard that he is do­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion in Eastern Europe, but I don't know ex­actly when that is and whether it will keep him from our event. Re­mem­ber, a lot of golfers on this Tour don't com­mit to

tour­na­ments un­til a few weeks be­fore them.

What about Fred Cou­ples, the home­town hero?

I'm told that if he's healthy, he will play.but he's won twice this year, with the sec­ond vic­tory a come-from-be­hind win June 25 in the Amer­i­can Fam­ily In­sur­ance Cham­pi­onship in Madi­son, Wisc. I'm op­ti­mistic that if he is healthy he will be here.

Please ex­plain the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Vir­ginia Ma­son Med­i­cal Cen­ter and the Tour?

OK. Vir­ginia Ma­son is the con­tract holder for the tour­na­ment from PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons. The big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary of the tour­na­ment is the Be­naroya Re­search In­sti­tute that is an af­fil­i­ate of the Vir­ginia Ma­son Health Sys­tem. The in­sti­tute is on the Vir­ginia Ma­son cam­pus on First Hill. The in­sti­tute is pur­su­ing cures for auto-im­mune dis­eases such as mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, di­a­betes, lu­pus and Crohn's Disease. Boe­ing is and has been the ma­jor sup­porter of the tour­na­ment and in help­ing us raise money for char­ity. They have a spon­sor­ship agree­ment with both the Tour and with Vir­ginia Ma­son.

The tour­na­ment has a one-of-a-kind open­ing – a fly­over up the 18th fair­way by a Boe­ing jet – and a nice clos­ing cer­e­mony with the award­ing of an avi­a­tion jacket. Any word on what model of Boe­ing plane will be in this year’s fly­over?

Not yet. Larry Dick­en­son from Boe­ing came up with both unique ideas. We usu­ally don't know the ex­act plane un­til right be­fore the event as Boe­ing co­or­di­nates a plane go­ing through fi­nal tests be­fore de­liv­ery.

The menu of spe­cial days – Fam­ily Day on Satur­day with face paint­ing and a bouncy house and Mil­i­tary Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Day on Sun­day with mil­i­tary per­son­nel re­mains the same, cor­rect?

That's right.

How se­ri­ous a golfer are you? I play 10-12 times a year but hope to play more now that all our kids are out of col­lege. My hand­i­cap in­dex never has been lower than 17.

Do you have a fa­vorite hole on the tour­na­ment course?

Prob­a­bly No. 14, “The Canyon Hole” where golfers have the op­tion of go­ing for the green over the canyon or play­ing it safe.

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