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Business Students from Sarasota-Manatee Campus to Learn about Marketing, Merchandizing and Concessions at PGA Tourney

By Rich Shopes

PGA Golf Course

SARASOTA (March 8, 2021) University of South Florida students received a behind-the-scenes lesson in marketing and hospitality when the PGA Tour last month visited The Concession Golf Club in Manatee County for a four-day, nationally televised tournament.

More than three dozen students assisted with marketing, merchandising and concessions as part of the annual PGA Tour World Golf Championships (WGC)-Mexico Championship, at the end of February.

The event, moved to the United States due to COVID-19 concerns, didn't expect to see the thousands of spectators usually in attendance at a PGA tournament. However, the event was expected to attract a sizeable TV audience with coverage by NBC Sports, the Golf Channel and PGA Tour Live.

Helping before and during the event were 52 USF students from the Muma College of Business. Joe Askren, an instructor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said the experience offered a unique “real-life” education during the weeklong event.

“It’s an amazing opportunity and not just for hospitality students but for students in marketing and other majors,” said Askren, who coordinated with the students and played a role himself with food preparation. “They assisted with merchandising, learning about golf event management and servicing the food and beverage component.”

The tournament attracted a cross-section of students, each with varying reasons for volunteering. Public relations major Jennifer Smith, 25, said she signed up because she’s seeking a deeper understanding of how major sporting events are organized.

“I want to learn about how an event like this is structured behind the scenes, as well as the social aspects and how people engage personally and professionally,” the third-year student said. “It was a great opportunity for me to get my feet wet and engage with professionals in a non-campus setting.”

The tournament took place over four days, but students arrived a few days early to assist with preparations. Most spent a single day volunteering, but some showed up for two or three days, depending on need.

Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said an event of the caliber of a PGA tournament offers an immediate windfall to the host region plus a future boon in the form of valuable TV exposure. Millions were expected to watch the event.

“For this event, almost 100 percent of attendees are from out-of-state and the economic impact was expected to be felt throughout the entire county at hotels, restaurants, bars, attractions and beaches,” he said. “Not to mention, the WGC was to be broadcast to 800 million households worldwide leading to additional destination awareness and an even greater economic impact in the future.”

The prestige of the PGA was one reason business administration major Sean Schrader, 19, decided to volunteer.

“It’s really an exciting opportunity to see what goes on at a tournament behind the scenes,” he said. “When you watch a game on TV, you’re never exposed to what’s happening away from the cameras. This is our opportunity to see all of that and what’s going on and to play a role at the tournament ourselves. You don’t learn this kind of thing in the classroom.”

Schrader, who sometime golfs with his grandfather at his home in Clearwater, was thrilled just to be involved.

Chun-Yao Lin, a 25-year-old student from Taiwan, agrees.

Lin is pursuing a graduate degree in marketing and describes himself as “a huge sports fan.” However, he said, he’s also curious about how large-scale events, such as PGA tournaments, are organized.

“I’m in the second year of my graduate program and it really means a lot to me to be involved in an event like this,” he said. “I’m passionate about sports, and I want to work in sports marketing someday, and this was a great opportunity to become really immersed in the sports industry. This kind of opportunity doesn't happen every day.”