PGA officials estimate several thousand spectators could take in today's start of practice rounds at Southern Hills.
Among them will be hundreds if not thousands of corporate guests.
The 2007 Professional Golfers' Association Championship presents one of the state's biggest marketing events in years. A variety of pricing packages will allow dozens of state and national companies, from giants like BOK Financial and the Nordam Group to small mom and pop operations, to use the seven-day tournament to woo and wow not just prospective clients and good customers, but loyal employees and contractors.
"If they're golf enthusiasts, that makes it a pretty easy sell," said Doug Huber, vice president with the architectural and engineering firm Crafton Tull Sparks. His firm bought four grounds tickets to take prospective clients to the course each day.
Oneok Inc. expects to entertain several hundred guests at a chalet it's sharing with another firm. GDH Consulting of Tulsa will host 60 at a table it bought along Southern Hills' famous par-four 12th hole.
"I don't know if it's so much as measured by return but in entertaining our clients," said JJ Hurley, who opened GDH in 2001. "It's a really draw for our clients down in Texas, down in Arkansas, to be able to come here and see this."
Williams Cos. will entertain more than 300 in the sponsor hospitality tent, mixing with Flintco, Cherokee Nation Enterprises and others.
"We see it as a way to build up relationships with our customers," said Amanda Hollon, Williams community relations and customer events partner. "Business is business, so we're hoping that by building stronger relationships we'll continue to have good business relations with these people."
That focuses on the key attraction most marketers see in the PGA.
"Our business is a relationship business," said Derek T. Blackshare, chief executive and president of Blackshare Environmental Solutions. "There are other people out there who do what we do, but they use us because the know us, they like us, they know our reputation."
Blackshare acquired six grounds-only tickets to share the day with both potential and ongoing clients.
"The tickets are relatively cheap; I think they're about $300 bucks a week on the grounds-only," he said. "What's that? Two grand, total. A couple of jobs from these people way more than pays for these things. The return is much higher than the investment."
In a world where 90 percent of business comes down to personal ties, Huber said sharing experiences at the tournament provides an ideal foundation for cementing long-term relationships.
"It's like seeing Michael Jordan playing basketball or Babe Ruth playing baseball," said Blackshare. "To some people it's a dream, a one-time dream come true."
Since tee times begin before 8 a.m., even the grounds tickets give executives a chance to walk the tree-lined fairways and follow icons like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson pursue Sunday's title presentation, all under the scenic splendor of one of the world's most treasured courses.
"You spend four to five hours on a golf course, wandering around and visiting," said Blackshare. "There's no pressure, no stress, but you get to know them and they get to know you and there's a relationship there."
If anyone gets tired during that, there's always the PGA Golf Shop or several other tents available to provide a restful break.
All that helps the experience transcend the sports world.
"How many times do you have eight hours to spend with a client?" said Huber. "Even if they may not be died-in-the-wool golf enthusiasts, they would do anything to see Tiger."
And if they are into golf, it can be a learning experience as well as a joy to watch.
"I'm anxious to see how the pros play," chipped in Hurley, a Southern Hills member who will also serve as a volunteer at the tournament. "I'm looking to see how they handle the 12th. I know how I do it. Now I want to see how they will do it."
Landing a convention
For some, the returns could be immediate. Cherokee Nation Enterprises will schmooze 180 guests at Southern Hills - and expects some 30,000 or more extra guests to frequent its Cherokee Resort Catoosa during the week.
Many firms share a larger view. Megan S. Washbourne said the PGA provides Oneok not just the chance to entertain customers, investors, employees and stakeholders, but also to showcase its headquarters city.
In some ways, Hollon said that aspect is more important than building its corporate relations. Besides sponsoring the fourth PGA championship at Southern Hills, Williams will also wine and dine its guests at other Tulsa venues, all to demonstrate what the city has to offer.
"Williams is one of the last energy companies to keep their home in Tulsa rather than move to Houston, so whenever we have a way to show off our city, we're very dedicated to that," she said. "For us not to be involved in something like this would send a pretty strong message. We're just very dedicated to showing off Tulsa. This is very huge for the city."
Such exposure could spur guests to do more than sign a contract. A favorable impression could bring a convention or new business to Tulsa.
Suzann Stewart, senior vice president with the Tulsa Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Tulsa Metro Chamber is partnering with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce Oklahoma Business Roundtable, the Tulsa's Future program, Flintco and Wood Group International to entertain several hundred economic development executives and event planners not just at a PGA chalet, but at the Gilcrease and many other venues across the city. Many of their events will not begin until Wednesday night.
"It puts Tulsa on the map with these folks," said Rusty Linker, director of new business development and marketing for the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
While the returns may never become apparent, Linker said events like the PGA open doors that otherwise might stay closed.
"Tulsa always shows well when you can host a prospect in town," he said. "The PGA's a good draw even when they don't have an active prospect."
In addition to several events targeting convention planners, Stewart said her bureau would operate two information booths at Southern Hills to educate spectators on what Tulsa has to offer. They also will provide information at individual chalets and tables, plus coupons, luggage tags, coasters and other Tulsa promotional memorabilia.
"You can pull millions of dollars into the community if you use this correctly," said Stewart.
For her attention focuses not just on winning over event planners, but corporate guests, golf spectators, even the visiting sports writers
"Our goal is to give them the most positive experience they could possibly have so that when they say anything about golf in Tulsa," she said, "everything has a positive slant to it. You know, the golf course is tough and the restaurants are even better."
TULSA - The PGA Championship tickets are on track to finish as one of the five best-attended in history, Tournament Director Ryan J. Jordan said Friday. But many options remain available.
Tickets may be purchased at the gate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during Championship Week. Practice round tickets for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be $33 for adults, 18 and older. Junior practice round tickets are $15 when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Thursday Grounds Tickets will be $92, Friday for $103, Saturday $114 and final-round Sunday tickets $125. Juniors will be admitted for all championship rounds for $30, for those 17-years and younger and accompanied by a ticketed adult.
A limited number of full-week Season Tickets remain at $353. Upgraded Wanamaker Tickets, with access to the air-conditioned Wanamaker Club are $450.
Visitors may catch free parking and shuttle service at Oral Roberts University, E. 81st and Lewis. Shuttle service will begin at 6:45 a.m. daily. The last shuttles will leave Southern Hills Golf Course at 8:30 p.m.…