Washington County will be in the spotlight this month when more than 25,000 spectators and up to 123 million households worldwide tune in to see first-rate golf teeing off at Southpointe Golf Club. The Mylan Classic, presented by CONSOL Energy, is one of four new stops on the Nationwide Tour sanctioned by the PGA TOUR.
The idea to bring a golf event of this nature to Western Pennsylvania began as a conversation between friends. Next, John Swiatek, director of sports, entertainment, and marketing at GSP Consulting Corporation and member of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, approached the PGA Tour. Swiatek wanted to make sure the area was on the Tour’s radar, which had been following the planning of the U.S. Women’s Open. “Once we circled the wagon and knew we had support, we really got started,” Swiatek says. “And with the Golf Channel’s international coverage and everything that goes around it, and everything that’s happening in Washington County, it just seemed like the time was right.”
Southpointe Golf Club was built into the business park in Canonsburg, giving players and spectators a clear view of the economic development in Southwestern Pennsylvania. “You’re literally playing golf between buildings,” says Jeff Kotula, Mylan Classic co-chairman and president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a very different venue than the Nationwide Tour — or, in fact, the PGA TOUR has experienced before.”
Larry Roytas, head golf professional at Southpointe Golf Club, says that the greens are always challenging because of the undulations, but expects two holes in particular to give players a run for their money. “Hole number six is a par five, but we will be playing it as a par four for the tournament. Hole number seven has been lengthened from 425 yards to 473 yards — and that’s an uphill par four,” Roytas says.
numbersThe Classic is expected to draw 156 Nationwide Tour professionals, as well as players’ families, caddies, Pro-Am participants, sponsors’ guests and employees, television crews, and an estimated 25,000 spectators. J. R. Shaw, executive director for the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, expects residents from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia to come to the tournament and see some really competitive golf. “From an entertainment standpoint, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this: It’s much more than just golf,” Shaw says. “They’ve arranged a week full of activities going into Labor Day weekend that will show everyone a great time here in Washington County,” he says.
A $25 grounds ticket gets you access to the tournament Thursday through Sunday. Admission is free Monday through Wednesday because it’s not competitive, and spectators can take photos, McClain says. That ticket will also get you in to see county music star Joe Nichols and Eli Young Band in concert at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino Tuesday night, and The Commodores and Tino Coury Saturday night at Southpointe Golf Club. “We want this to be inclusive,” McClain says. “We want this to be a community event. You just can’t accomplish that whenever you charge outrageous prices.”
That ticket price is also good for the community. More than 140 local nonprofits are selling tickets for the tournament. As part of the ANSYS TICKETS fore CHARITY program, nonprofits receive 100 percent of those ticket revenues. “The best thing about the program is that it makes an absolute immediate impact on their mission,” McClain says. “We don’t want to wait until after the tournament to cut checks to these charities for what they sold. We cut them a check every month.” At press time, the Classic office has already written checks for a total of $194,000 before the tournament’s first drive off of the tee.
The most ticket revenue that any Nationwide Tour event has brought in its first year participating in the TICKETS fore CHARITY program was about $80,000. “In our first year, we’ve already eclipsed that by double,” McClain says. “From a benchmarking standpoint, we’ve shown that this is a golf-ready market.” People are willing to support and [are] ready and able to support charities.” ANSYS has also provided a $35,000 bonus pool to be distributed among the charities based on their percentage of total tickets sold.
The classic will bring in an estimated $9 million to the local economy. That figure is based on an economic impact study in Omaha, Neb., that saw increases in hotel reservations, tourist attractions, and local restaurants and businesses. As of press time, it was still too early for Bistecca Steakhouse and Wine Bar to judge whether there was an increase in reservations. Still, David Lamatrice, President of the PIPA Group was “about 99 percent positive we will see a nice influx of people from this tournament.”
At the end of the day, McClain says he won’t look at the scoreboard to see the winners; he’ll be looking at the community. “I judge our success as a tournament on how much we can give back to charity,” he says.
The Mylan Classic has a three-year renewable contract with the PGA TOUR pending sponsorship support. “This is an absolutely great golf market,” McClain says. “We’ve had great sponsorship support, and we anticipate to be here indefinitely.” — Nicole Stempak