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SPORTING LIFE

by Whitney Kenerly & Daniel Schere

Major sports events put the Triad in the global spotlight

WYNDHAM – GREENSBORO

Golf shoes from around the world are crossing the greens of Sedgefield Country Club this week for the Wyndham Championship Tournament.

The tournament is celebrating its 75 th anniversary this year, and the PGA tour event has grown into one of the biggest marketing opportunities in Greensboro.

Councilman Mike Barber is an avid golf fan as a chairman for the Wyndham Tournament and President of The First Tee of the Triad, a program that provides golf clinics to local kids.

“It the only major league professional sporting even in our city,” said Barber.

According to Barber the tournament will be televised in over 200 countries and available to 900 million households with and economic impact exceeding $28 million.

Despite the rain early this week, the tournament has been going smoothly. The Sedgefield course is the only green on the regular PGA tour that was originally designed in 1925 by the late Scottish golf course architect, Donald Ross.

Since 1938, dozens of gold legends have played in the tournament, and 17 tournament winners have been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Flame, including the tournament’s very first winner, Sam Snead.

The tournament has traditionally been a place where the movers and shakers of Greensboro would gather in their visors and polo shirts to enjoy being out on the green while trying to spot celebrities.

For golf lovers such as Barber, the championship is much more than just a social event.

“Most every other sport, you can substitute if things aren’t going well,” said Barber. “In golf you have to make it through the good days and the bad days. Golf is the only sport where the players’ integrity is respected so much that they are allowed to govern themselves.”

The Wyndham Championship also contributes to local charities and features afternoon clinics for children from diverse backgrounds with a variety of needs, including First Tee of the Triad.

Barber said he was happy to be able to share his love of the sport and it’s core values with youth, but was ultimately just enjoying what he considers to be the highlight of his summer.

“I look forward to this week every year,” said Barber. “I have since high school. It’s my favorite week of the year.”

WS OPEN RETURNS

Not everyone in the Triad may be aware, but Winston-Salem plays host to one of the largest tennis competitions in the country outside of the US Open.

The Winston-Salem Open, which takes place at the Wake Forest University Tennis Center, draws 48 of the top 100 male tennis players in the world every year for a single elimination competition that lasts one week. They have had players as wellknown as superstar Andy Roddick, and this year’s top pick is Greensboro’s own John Isner. The single-elimination tournament begins August 16 with the qualifying round and wraps up August 23 with a championship game that will be internationally televised on CBS. Altogether, the prize package is $600,000.

The origin of the tournament dates back to 1990 when it was held on Long Island, New York before it moved to New Haven, Connecticut and later Winston-Salem in 2011.

Tournament Director Bill Oaks, who is also the Associate Athletic Director at Wake Forest University, said the event typically draws 40,000 people from 28 different states and six countries””something he attributes to the timing of the event right before the US Open. He said the tournament, which is in its fourth year, provides an economic boost of between $4 million and $5 million to the city.

“Since we have kept Winston-Salem in the title we are not actually up selling title sponsorship,” Oaks said. “Our sponsors have wanted us to develop a tournament that kept Winston- Salem in the name with the purpose of helping to promote Winston-Salem and the Triad. But if you sold just the international exposure that we get, it’s valued by independent sources as somewhere between $7 million and $8 million worth of free advertising a year.”

He added that the tournament provides jobs for 12 seasonal workers and four permanent employees.

Ticket prices range from $10 for the qualifying round to $100 for the championship game.

Oaks said he is optimistic about the event and thinks there will be a large turnout due to the number of tickets that have already been sold.

“We’ve sold 25 percent more tickets this year than last year so we’re very excited about a strong event this year,” he said. !

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