- Golfer Benefits
NORTON, Massachusetts – This week, thousands of golf fans will be heading to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York to watch the PGA Tour’s finest compete in the 118th U.S. Open Championship. While the outcome of the major championship is yet to be determined, one thing that is for sure is that the Bay State will be well represented both on and off the course this week in New York.
In addition to three Massachusetts natives – amateur Matt Parziale (Brockton), Richy Werenski (South Hadley) and Peter Uihlein (New Bedford) – who will be part of the starting field, four other superstars have been working hard for weeks preparing for one of golf’s greatest weeks.
Tournament Solutions, a Newburyport-based gifts and awards company, is an official merchandise licensee of the United States Golf Association that is responsible for stocking many of the accessory items that will be found in the 40,000 square foot merchandise pavilion.
In fact, most watchers of the U.S. Open Championship – whether in person or from afar – probably don’t realize that the small company from the North Shore will produce and sell more than 20,000 pin flags during a 10-day period.
“People come in and want to get autographs, so it’s a nice piece of memorabilia,” said John Lawrence, a managing partner of Tournament Solutions who is part of the four-person team on site in New York. “That along with mugs are our two biggest sellers.”
Founded in 2002 by Lawrence and fellow co-owner Pam Berube, Tournament Solutions has grown into one of the largest golf accessory gift and award companies in the United States. For the past 20 years, Tournament Solutions has been an official merchandise licensee for the PGA Tour, Professional Golf Association, Association of Golf Merchandisers, United States Golf Association, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
What makes this year’s U.S. Open Championship especially meaningful is the fact that Tournament Solutions first began working with the USGA back in 2004 when the U.S. Open Championship was last held at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
“I think that we’ve proven to the USGA over the past 14 years that we can do the job for them,” said Lawrence, a member of the Golf Club at Turner Hill, who noted that the company also produces the player badges that are given out and worn by all competitors in the field. “They have a lot of confidence and trust in us, and we’ve grown our business with them over the last 14 years. Their staff is fantastic to work with, and they demand a lot from us but they want to put on the best experience for the people coming to the U.S. Open. That’s what it’s kind of become, it’s not just a golf tournament anymore, it’s an experience.”
Lawrence will be joined on site by Patrick Barrett, who manages major golf events, as well as Justin Serowik and Collin MacDonald who are serving as summer interns. Serowik, from Marblehead, played collegiate golf at Wilmington University, while MacDonald just finished his freshman season at McDaniel College.
While on site at the U.S. Open Championship, Lawrence took a moment to take a break and talk about the company’s journey from Newburyport to Shinnecock Hills.
“There’s a 40,000 square foot merchandise tent at Shinnecock Hills, and it’s made up of a lot of companies from the golf world. Companies such as apparel brands like Nike, Cutter and Buck, Ralph Lauren, Peter Millar, and Under Armour are all site.
There are also a large amount of accessories, and that’s where we come in. We are an accessory provider for the USGA, and we have been doing this for them since 2004. Ironically, this is where we first started. Our first event with them was in 2004 at Shinnecock and we’ve been doing it ever since.
The things that we provide are autographed pin flags, all of the drink wear, which includes mugs and water bottles, a lot of the bags like security bags, and metals like ball markers, lapel pins and things like that.”
“We started [on June 7], and we will be there through June 17th. The first four days are pre-sale for people who do not have tickets. They can come in and they can shop. On Monday, the ticket holders will come in, as the practice rounds start Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That is an important time for us because the pin flags are our largest product line.
We will have close to 15,000 to 20,000 pin flags that we will sell over the next week. Half will be embroidered, and half will be screen printed. People come in and want to get autographs or it’s a nice piece of memorabilia. That along with mugs are our two biggest sellers. Basically, what we have to do is make sure that the tent is well stocked with our product. We have a full tractor trailer here on site backed up to the merchandise tent with all of our product in there.
The USGA owns it, but we are there to manage the inventory and help them, so they can sell more. If we run out of product, we have to reproduce it in 24 to 48 hours with the Shinnecock logo on it and get it back out on the floor so people can buy it. We have the ability to do that which has really solidified our position with the USGA.”
“We have very long days. Once Monday starts, the hours are 7:00 a.m. until the last person leaves the tent, which is probably going to be about 8:00 p.m.. If there’s any rain delays, it will be later than that. It’s great to go to these historical events like Shinnecock Hills, but it’s a grueling week for everybody, for all of the vendors, not just for Tournament Solutions.”
“We have a great relationship with the USGA. We not only do the onsite merchandise here at the U.S. Open, but we do a lot of their cooperate merchandise, which is for the people who have hospitality tents at Shinnecock.
I think that we’ve proven to the USGA over the past 14 years that we can do the job for them. So they have a lot of confidence and trust in us, and we’ve grown our business with them over the last 14 years. Their staff is fantastic to work with, and they demand a lot of us but they want to put on the best experience for the people coming to the U.S. Open. That’s what it’s kind of become, it’s not just a golf tournament anymore, it’s an experience. There’s so much more than just golf there.
In addition to doing all the cooperate gifts, we do a lot of things internally for them, An example would be the player badges. You may see on television the players wearing these badges on their hats or on their belts. We also do all the water bottles and lapels for the volunteers, so it’s a pretty big program for us.”
“We will meet with them very early in September. Things calm down for a couple of months and then pick back up. But in between we have a couple large events. We have the KPMG, LPGA Championship, which we are doing in Chicago, and then we also have the PGA Championship in Saint Louis, which is at Bellerive this year in August. So we have those two large events and they’re pretty large.
The PGA Championship of course is a major. My partner Pam Berube does the PGA Championship, and I handle the U.S. Open.
Last week we just finished up with the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, so we had one of our employees, Patrick Barrett, manage that event. He basically came from the Women’s Open to here, so you can see that it’s a busy summer for us.”
“The good thing is that we are in constant contact with the USGA throughout the year that they’re making sure that all of our checkpoints are covered. We just make sure that all the factories that we use are ready to go this week. Our initial koozie order for Pinehurst in 2004 was 3,000 koozies. By that Sunday at the end, we had replenished another 37,000 koozies. As a result, we have to make sure the factories that we have set up all over the country are ready to go, and that they can turn on a switch. In Seattle at Chambers Bay in 2015, we replenished 8,000 mugs. It’s stuff like that which is kind of crazy, and you have to be ready for it.
Here at Shinnecock, we will receive the product and will have to count it, inspect it and make sure everything’s in there. Sometimes we have to get it tagged with pricing. Sometimes our factory can do it, but there isn’t always enough time and we have to get it back out on the floor because we do not want to lose any sales. It’s a very impressive operation.”
“It’s busy from start to finish. We will have our team which is four people and then the USGA gives us two to three volunteers. We do not stop from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. The goal is to prevent any product from getting low on the retail floor. It’s like groundhog day every day. You forget what day it is. You wake up and do the same thing for 10 days. It’s grueling.”
For additional information on Tournament Solutions, please visit the company’s website: tournamentsolutions.com