In almost every way possible, it was a "gimme’’ that the inaugural Tommy Bahama Challenge would turn out to be smashing success. Hey, the gang at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale — Gregg Tryhus, Del Cochran and Joe Shershenovich — has never thrown a "stinker.’’
If anything, Tommy Bahama’s latest party was guaranteed golden almost the moment that Terry Jastrow of Jastrow Productions and Steve Loy of Gaylord Sports cooked up the idea — chiefly because of Grayhawk‘s involvement. Put the TBC at any of the East Valley’s other elite public facilities — from Troon North to We-Ko-Pa — and it doesn’t fly.
That’s because Grayhawk is all about living large and "the lifestyle.’’ No other Scottsdale club open to the public has that laidback ambience, that loose Tommy Bahama-like fit, and the legacy of hosting big-time events, although the TPC of Scottsdale with its FBR Open definitely targets that latter category.
Cochran and Co., began their never-ending story in 1995, less than a year after Grayhawk opened its doors. Their first tournament was the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf, which was played in November of 1995 on the Talon Course.
"The Andersen Consulting turned out to be the precursor for all of the World Golf Championship events — the WGC — and we’re pretty proud of that,’’ Cochran noted. "It also produced some great champions like Greg Norman (1997) and Colin Montgomery (’98), and was televised into 230 countries.’’
In 2000, Tiger Woods brought his inaugural Williams World Challenge (now called the Target Challenge) to the Raptor Course. Tom Lehman was the winner that year, although Phil Mickelson’s infamous chip over hailstones at the 18th green remains the lore. Yep, Lefty holed it.
Tiger took his tournament to California the following year, but Grayhawk came up with another calling card in its Tommy Bahama Desert Marlin. Played opposite the season-opening Mercedes Championship in January, the Marlin has become quite popular with the PGA Tour players — the nonwinners from the season before.
So the Tommy Bahama Challenge fits to a "tee,’’ as evidenced by the 2,000 fans that turned out Tuesday to watch the American team led by Chad Campbell defeat the Internationals. The big bonus was the hi-jinx provided by U.S. captain Gary McCord and his International counterpart, David Feherty.
"I was hoping we’d get at least 100 (fans), so I was blown away by the turnout,’’ Cochran confessed.
Grayhawk will host the TBC again next year, and has two, twoyear options for the future. It’s not necessarily a money-maker, but the pro-am was sold out with 28 teams shelling out $15,000 each.
"All the numbers are not in, but when they are, I’m sure we’ll lose money on it,’’ Cochran conceded. "I don’t know if that’s the way to say it, really, because the two hours of exposure we’ll get on CBS when they play it back in January will be off the charts.’’
It’s a calculated risk few in the Arizona golf industry really understand: The TBC is not about what happened on Tuesday — who wins or loses — but about the playback, or payback, come Jan. 1, when the nation is blanketed in snow and cold. Yes, Grayhawk is going to look really awesome right about then.
It’s the secret to Grayhawk’s success — "live marketing.’’ Cochran realized as much during his active days as a member of the Phoenix Thunderbirds, and nobody runs with it better than the Grayhawk Gang.
"I think it works, no question,’’ Cochran said. "Sure (the Tommy Bahama Challenge) is tapedelayed, but when we watch it (New Year’s Day), it will be live to me.’’
Seriously, what a great way to spend your marketing dollars. Develop relationships with prominent companies like Tommy Bahama and Mercedes-Benz, get national television exposure on CBS on New Year’s Day, and party like a rock star.
"We love the experience,’’ Cochran said from behind a smug smile. "The last couple of days have been very exciting, and hanging around with McCord and Feherty, well, that’s priceless.’’
How true. And having five Ryder Cuppers in the mix — Paul Casey, Chad Campbell, Ian Poulter, David Howell and Chris Riley — was also a very dynamic debut.
That’s why I’ll bet a whippedcream pie — just like the one McCord smacked into Feherty’s face on Tuesday — that next year’s event will be bigger and better, with other young guns like Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Charles Howell III clamoring for an invitation.