The 2022 Presidents Cup has just ended. I am sharing with you now an interview with Rolex Partners Johnny Harris (Quail Hollow Club, President), Johno Harris (2022 Presidents Cup Chair), and Adam Sperling (Executive Director, 2022 Presidents Cup).
The PGA Tour have been planning the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow since 2015. Can you describe what that journey has been like now that the tournament here in Charlotte?
Adam Sperling: It’s pretty special. It’s everything I think the Presidents Cup aims to be. You think of the history and how Quail Hollow Club was founded, how professional golf came to Quail Hollow Club and how the Presidents Cup started in 1994 to grow the game globally, and the support of Rolex since 2005 to get us to this point.
The different countries are represented, and you see the people coming in from all over the world to be part of it on a great property that hosts an annual event for the PGA Tour. To me, it’s the culmination of decades of work both in Charlotte and the Quail Hollow Club and also by the PGA Tour.
Johnny, can you tell us about the strategies and lengths that you went to attract superstars to the Quail Hollow Club when you first had this event without any history or prestige?
Johnny Harris: When we first decided to go back to the PGA Tour in 2004 with the Wachovia Championship we knew we had a unique support mechanism in Wachovia, because they had just merged, Wachovia and First Union and they wanted an opportunity to put their brand in front of a certain type of person and that along with the fact that we sat down with [Rolex Testimonee] Arnold Palmer, which was never lost on me that Arnold in his own way had a better understanding of what the people wanted out of the game that he loved so much.
We talked to him about how do we do something really special here in Charlotte. There were all kinds of advice and suggestions that we received including taking care of the caddies, valet parking for the caddies, we had valet parking for the wives, and did all kinds of different things including events for the wives.
During the first three or four years, we had two years where we had 29 of the top 30 in the world here for the golf tournament and we did a lot of unusual things to attract them.
I personally worked on bringing the final four here in 1994 and was involved in bringing the NFL to Charlotte and one of the things we learned was that you have to go ask for the business.
We had a golf course which had been designed by George Cobb, who had designed the Par 3 at Augusta and we had Tom Fazio come in and change it, and then all of a sudden the people who had heard bad things about our golf course, because it wasn’t a great championship golf course, all of a sudden there was some real enthusiasm amongst the players.
From your perspective as leaders not just in the community but also within the world of golf, what opportunities do you see for golf to utilize technology to continue to grow the game? Also, from the opposite end what challenges do you see with technology and specifically within the Professional game to not lose some of the aspects that have made golf so great?
Johno Harris: What I love about this event and what I love about the PGA Tour is that when I talk about obligations to grow the game and what we have done here, the Charlie Sifford Tournament bringing the HBCUgroups here to the first tee brings the youth together.
I have said this before if a kid is watching this or a billion households are watching this, and one kid picks up a golf club then we have done our job.
If you look at younger people today, technology is part of their life, whether it’s their phone, computer, or whatever it is and you see it today, every player has a Trackman, and they are looking at that data and how that affects their play and that’s running all the way through college.
Now you see that juniors are doing the exact same thing. It is going to be inevitable at the end of the day that technology is going to drive a lot of things.
I think technology is going to be part of the game going forward and I think it has an opportunity to grow the game as well.
Adam Sperling: From an events standpoint while the game of golf has grown over the generations and the caretakers have maintained that growth and protected what is sacred. The world has also changed outside the golf course and the experience, the focus, and the attention span of individuals.
You see technology in forward-facing ways during events as a way to engage with customers and keep them here and maintain a high level of experience. We have 30 video boards across the property, the largest video board the PGA Tour have ever built behind the first tee.
We are using our FID technology to enhance the experiences so that when spectators come in through the gates three hours in advance and they get to the first tee they don’t have to sit there. They are able to check in, go and enjoy the property and come back.
We are tracking the average spending, and transactions time and we are learning from our concessions, but it is all about creating an experience to keep everybody here and enjoying the game, the experience and making sure that golf and golf tournaments can move forwards as all the other opportunities and competition move forwards as well.
What drives you for the next objective?
Johnny Harris: We have broken the mold on how to run an event and now we need to figure out to do a regular event and make it feel at least as attractive as we can to compete with what this has done and we will figure something and do a good job and have a great Wells Fargo, but I never look back as that’s not what we do, not what I do.
It’s the things that we build on-site and try to do that are the things that I get excited about and think about what we can do next time a little bit better and a step up. We told the club from the very beginning that we would continue to invest money, and keep reinvesting the money.
Johno Harris: The only thing I would add is that we have been very fortunate, and we have great partners, and those partners could be individuals like Arnold Palmer and some of the players who are out here at the Presidents Cup but also long-term partners like the PGA Tour and Rolex.
Johnny Harris: One of the goals I had, when we were trying to host the PGA Championship, was that at the moment I was able to talk about us hosting the championship, that I was able to reach out to Rolex and let them know we were hosting a Major now and we needed a Rolex clock at the club.
At one point I went to all 4 Majors for 5 years in a row and it was amazing because everywhere I went, I would see a Rolex clock.
I know that we want to keep doing things other than an every-year event and I know that we will do an every-year event for a while but what we would want to do is love to get into a niche where we were doing something of a different magnitude and I think that we are getting to that point.
However, you judge whether we have done a good job or not, if you judge it based on other tournaments then there are numbers that you can look at that say nobody has done it better except maybe the place down the street in Georgia.
All we can do is be the best that we can be and if somebody gives us a chance, we will put our best foot forward and I promise you they will benefit from what we do.
That could be, do we want to have a Ryder Cup? yes but do we want to have the Presidents Cup back, absolutely we want the Presidents Cup to come back. My primary goal at the minute is to make sure that we are in consideration for another Presidents Cup.
Johno Harris: We are in a position now where we have done some pretty good things and I hope that people understand that those things have happened because of partners and we feel like that if we have the right partnerships then we can accomplish something pretty special and at the end of the day if we can be a small part of the game under the right conditions to grow the game of golf then that’s what we should do.
Adam Sperling: I would tell you something as an outsider that there is a quote, ‘Everything’s impossible until it’s done’ and there is nothing that these two men (Johnny and Johno Harris) and the members of Quail Hollow Club and this community sees as impossible.
Rolex partnership – 2022 Presidents Cup
Rolex is the Official Timekeeper and Global Partner at the 2022 Presidents Cup, which took place for the first time at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, from 22–25 September 2022.
For more than 50 years, Rolex has developed an enduring partnership with golf, one of the most successful between a brand and sport. The affiliation was established in 1967 when Arnold Palmer became the game’s first Rolex Testimonee. He was joined by close friends and fellow members of The Big Three, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.