An Unbeatable Partnership Charts the Summer 2006 "Oregon Golf Trail"
Imagination and vision create the Summer 2006 "Oregon Golf Trail"
by Jim Pasero

Dave Manougian, Oregon native and president of The Golf Channel, is having a big year.

In January, Manougian and The Golf Channel signed a 15-year deal to air 33 PGA Tour events for Thursday-Friday coverage and 15 full events beginning in 2007. The move by the cable network to become the home of golf programming is similar to ESPN’s move to take over Monday Night Football. In the world of sports programming, cable television is the future, and the new contract will raise The Golf Channel’s domestic penetration from 70 million to 90 million homes.

That same month, Manougian told Golf World writer Ron Sirak about what such an enormous contract will do for the cable network. “Every aspect of our programming will be reevaluated,” said Manougian. “There will be a pretty intense ripping apart and building back up. That’s why a 15-year deal was important to us. It gives us the time to make the changes work.”

Adds Sirak about the $3 billion contract between the The Golf Channel and the PGA, “By bumping ESPN and USA out of early-round coverage, the tour is betting its exposure that The Golf Channel will rise to the occasion. By accepting the challenge, The Golf Channel is gambling its future.”

In August, the state of Oregon has its own plans to ride along with The Golf Channel success, its own “Oregon Golf Trail.” Last month Travel Oregon confirmed a partnership with The Golf Channel to promote Oregon’s rise in international golf. Natives may not value it and may take for granted the breathtaking vistas on the resorts and courses in Central Oregon. For locals, the wines of the Yamhill Valley and the rugged beauty of the Oregon Coast are just a typical day trip with a tee time on a top ten golf course thrown in. But that’s not how the rest of the world thinks of Oregon, particularly golfers. The state now rightfully claims to be one of the top dozen most alluring golf locations in the world, especially in summer months.

“Bandon Dunes are the first words on everybody lips,” Travel + Leisure Golf editor Paul Rogers says about people planning a golf vacation in Oregon.

For more than a decade, the state of Oregon has sometimes quietly and sometimes not so quietly been rising in the golf world. Pumpkin Ridge, under the far-sighted leadership of Gay Davis, was host to Tiger Woods’ third U.S. Amateur Championship in ’96 and two thrilling U.S. Women’s Opens in ’97 and ’03. Chicago native Michael Keiser has built three courses at Bandon Dunes, two of which are consistently ranked in the top 25 in the world. When Sunriver Resort built Crosswater in 1995, a course ranked top 100 in the world was added to Oregon’s “golf trail.” And for more than 30 years, Tournament Golf Foundation Inc. (TGFI), for many years under the leadership of Tom Maletis, has hosted one of the LPGA’s top events, the Safeway Classic.

In the last half decade, Rod Wendt, president of Jeld-Wen Inc., the world’s largest door and window maker, has positioned the Klamath Falls-based multinational corporation as Oregon’s corporate face behind the PGA tour. First, the company brought the annual Jeld-Wen Tradition to Oregon. In addition, it sponsors one of the PGA’s top players, Oregonian Ben Crane, and it sponsors Champions Tour star Peter Jacobsen. And more recently the firm has stepped up its on-air sponsorship of several PGA regular tour stops, as well as being the official “door and window” sponsor of the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile, Beaverton-based Nike entered the golf equipment business by signing two of the game’s most prominent faces, Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie. And Portland-based Adidas happens to have as one of its subsidiaries golf equipment manufacturer TaylorMade, the company making the game’s best driver—just ask John Daly. That’s a lot of golf going on in the small state of Oregon.

But this summer, whether it’s circumstances, strategic planning, hard work, or just pure dumb luck, the stars have aligned; the state of Oregon is hosting six national golf tournaments, most of them located at prestigious internationally known sites. Better still, five of these six events will be aired on The Golf Channel, three of them within a single month.

Begin the journey along the Summer 2006 Oregon Golf Trail on the last weekend in May in Sunriver at Crosswater, where the University of Portland Pilots will host the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship. Two months later, July 29-30, David Fay and the USGA bring the first national event to Bandon Dunes, The Curtis Cup. While the women amateurs from the U.S. and Great Britain and Ireland compete, The Golf Channel producers will make the rest of the nation, especially those sweltering in the summer heat east of the Mississippi, eat their hearts out as they view the Oregon summer scenery…cool, green, spectacular.

One week later Pumpkin Ridge hosts the U.S. Women’s Amateur. The following week make way for the professionals, as Paula Creamer, Lorena Ochoa, Natalie Gulbis, and Annika Sorenstam take part in the 34th edition of TGFI’s Safeway Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club, played along the banks of the Columbia River on the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

The next week the champions tee off for the Jeld-Wen Tradition at The Reserve in Aloha, the Champions Tour final major of the season. And just three weeks later, farther down the Willamette Valley, Shadow Hills Country Club in Junction City hosts the Oregon Classic, an annual on the PGA’s Nationwide Tour.

State Sen. Vicki Walker believed putting these events together with an international marketing strategy to promote Oregon on The Golf Channel was a winning idea. At first glance, Vicki Walker might not be the person you would imagine pushing an Oregon golf marketing concept. Why? Because in her day job she is known as a liberal public policy crusader shaking up wasteful state agencies and seeking political and personal justice, including pushing for an investigation of Neil Goldschmidt. These days, Walker is still a crusader for good government, but she is also an avid golfer, a regular viewer of The Golf Channel and a Wall Street Journal reader.

“My husband watches The Golf Channel all the time,” says Walker. “It’s our default channel; whenever I walk in the house it’s on.”

Walker’s favorite show on The Golf Channel is “The Daly Planet.” “Hearing the story about John Daly giving the winner’s check from his first tournament to a scholarship fund for a family whose father had been killed by lightening at that tournament (‘91 PGA Championship), and then later meeting those children all grown up (in an ’05 episode of the show)—it was really nice.”

Walker sees a big upside in marketing Oregon on The Golf Channel. “We need to build on Oregon’s strengths. We have tremendous potential in the world of golf, and we also offer beautiful rivers, streams, the ocean, vineyards, and our incredible wine country, which is known worldwide. I want people to know how beautiful Oregon is—how Oregon can be competitive in a global marketplace. I want to build on those assets.”

Walker liked the idea so much that she pitched it to Bob Repine, Oregon’s new director of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. Repine, who served in the Oregon legislature for 10 years, knew Walker from the Oregon House and worked with her later when Repine was director of Oregon Housing and Community Services. The two of them worked successfully on legislation to make new housing more handicapped accessible. “He is a person who just gets it,” says Walker.

Repine, like Walker, is a big fan of The Golf Channel. “I find myself watching ‘Academy Live’ after my weekend outings just to see how I might be able to improve my game,” he says. “I enjoy watching tournament play, especially those that are held outside of the U.S. I guess you could say it’s my way to travel the world from the chair in my front room.”

Repine sees good opportunities for marketing on national television, especially since it’s been a long, long time since Oregon has had any kind of national television campaign. “As I watch The Golf Channel and understand the market that my department is trying to attract to Oregon, showcasing the ‘total Oregon’ would be my approach.

“This is truly a ‘work hard; play hard’ state,” says Repine. “This is a state where companies that have gotten tired of their old space, their old surroundings, their same old work environment can come. They can take in the beautiful golf courses we have, the excellent wines that are produced here, test one of the hundreds of microbrews produced here, and drive less than two hours in any direction and find a totally different Oregon waiting for them.”

Beginning an Oregon international television ad campaign when the state budget faces revenue cutbacks has taken imagination, some new partners, and some new thinking. To borrow a tired cliché, it has required “thinking outside the box.” Walker and Repine began discussing Oregon’s role as a golf capital and soon realized that it fit not just with OECDD but also with Travel Oregon. This winter Walker and Repine approached Todd Davidson, director of Travel Oregon. Davidson, who has overseen the state’s recent “Brand Oregon” campaign, was looking for ways to put a stronger emphasis on Oregon golf and to promote the state and the sport internationally.

“We are no longer in a domestic tourism environment; we are in a global environment,” says Davidson. “We’re not just competing against Colorado and Montana for tourism dollars, but we are going against Jamaica, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand.”

Davidson believes that The Golf Channel’s vision for marketing Oregon has some big upsides. “The Golf Channel is offering a comprehensive picture of Oregon this summer. They will showcase the state as part of a regularly scheduled program series that will air in prime time,” Davidson says. “They will leverage the six tournaments in Oregon this summer and, in doing so, provide an opportunity to work with our tourism partners around the state to showcase Oregon through a series of vignettes that will augment the golf message by showing other Oregon tourist attractions and amenities.

“What The Golf Channel brings to the mix,” says Davidson, “is the opportunity for the state to do television, do vignettes about Oregon that will be bumpers during the tournaments they will televise. It is an opportunity for us to reach a specific targeted market. The Golf Channel will also help us target that market online. And the shows will have longevity because they will be part of The Golf Channel’s On Demand line-up through ’07. We will be also be able to show the vignettes at international trade shows.

“This is an opportunity for us to begin to galvanize the golf industry in Oregon in a new way. Various golf offerings are now able to come together under a common brand and promote golf in Oregon.”

Davidson is appreciative of those who have built the golf industry in Oregon and helped create this marketing opportunity. “We have corporate citizens in Oregon who are committed to promoting Oregon as a golf destination. My understanding is that Jeld-Wen was interested in sponsoring a PGA event and bringing their many door and window brands together, but they told the PGA they would only sponsor the Jeld-Wen Tradition if the event was in Oregon. That is huge. Oregon needs to understand the commitment that was made by Jeld-Wen corporate because it brings benefits to the state they call home.”

Davidson is also pleased that Travel Oregon is reaching out to new private sector partners, such as Bandon Dunes, Eagle Crest Resorts, and, of course, The Golf Channel, to promote Oregon. Jerry Andres, CEO of Eagle Crest Resorts (a subsidiary of Jeld-Wen) believes that his company offers world-class golf products.

“We have a Palmer-designed course in the Running Y Ranch, and we are opening a Jacobsen-designed course in Powell Butte this summer with Brasada Ranch.”

The company also owns three courses in Redmond at Eagle Crest. Having The Golf Channel create television shows at their resorts this spring is a natural. “The Golf Channel gives recognition to our excellent products and the golf industry that we have made in Oregon. Central Oregon, alone, ranks as one of the top 50 golf destinations in the world.”

Andres, like his boss Rod Wendt, admires Kohler Plumbing Company with their world-class resort, Whistling Straits, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. The course has already hosted the PGA Championship in ’04 and will host the PGA Championships in 2010 and 2015 and the Ryder Cup in 2020. “That’s exactly the kind of vision Jeld-Wen is moving toward for Oregon. But the golf industry is pretty well entrenched, so it takes time for things to move. You have to be patient,” he says.

Portland’s Tom Maletis, responsible for running two LPGA events for Safeway, the Safeway International in Phoenix and the Safeway Classic in Portland, knows firsthand what The Golf Channel can do to promote a state’s tourism.

Maletis was in Hawaii last fall as The Golf Channel prepared to make January the “Aloha month” on its network. He negotiated to have the winner of The Golf Channel’s popular reality series “Big Break V” earn a sponsor exemption to one LPGA event, and that event just happens to be this year’s Safeway Classic.

“I was in Hawaii for the last three days of the taping,” says Maletis. “The Golf Channel filmed me awarding the winner of the ‘Big Break’ series an exemption to the Safeway Classic. We are going to get a lot of play off of that.

“The final episode of the ‘Big Break V’ will air the first week of June, and then The Golf Channel will begin a four-week show right before the Safeway Classic prepping the winner for our tournament. There will be lots of visibility for us. The Golf Channel has put a lot of money into the series. It will be a great lead in for our tournament.”

This August watch for “Oregon month” on The Golf Channel—a vision that Dave Manougian, Rod Wendt, Jerry Andres, Bandon Dunes’ Matt Allen, Gay Davis, Tom Maletis, Vicki Walker, Todd Davidson, and Bob Repine have worked hard to make a reality. Oregon will ascend to its rightful place as the golf capital of the Northwest and one of the world’s truly great summer golf destinations. This summer, the world will be watching, enviously, as golfers, travelers, vacationers, and those of us lucky enough to call this beautiful state home, follow the Oregon Golf Trail.

BrainstormNW - May 2006

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