Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Wheels already turning for 2015 Lilac Invite

 

Paul Delaney

Tony Robydek, the 2014 Lilac City Invitational winner, speaks following his July 13 victory. Plans are already underway for the 2015 edition with hopes of a greatly enhanced purse and new wrinkles that will increase the field.

At its 50th birthday the Lilac City Invitational Golf Tournament appeared to be in need of a spoonful of youthful elixir or an energy drink.

Held July 10-13 at The Fairways Golf Course at West Terrace, this milestone event's numbers may have been down, but the play and finish was not.

Tony Robydek, from Lakewood, Wash., shot a final-round 70 and a four-day total of 271 to finish 17 under par and beat Cheney High School grad Peter Sisich by two strokes to claim $5,000 first place money in a tournament that drew 60 players, 20 of who were professionals, down 33 in 2013.

But according to Fairways' general manager and head pro, Kris Kallem, there's already work underway to fix what might ail the Lilac. And it starts with the ground troops Kallem has enlisted in the El Katif Shriners.

Late coming on board for 2014, the charity wanted to do more for 2015 and has "Hit the ground running," Kallem said.

They realize the more higher quality players they can get, and the more exposure the event gets, the more money the hospital is going to raise. "It's the same formula the PGA Tour and the Rosauers (Open) uses," Kallem explained.

While scheduling has presented one of the biggest challenges for The Fairways in packing the Lilac with notable names, the cure is cash.

"There's all sorts of conflicts, starting with the Pacific Northwest Sectional," Kallem said. The PGA has over 200 events spread throughout the season. "So the dates have always been in question."

There's a magic number Kallem said they would like to reach - $10,000 first place money. "That would attract a lot of professionals." The Rosauers pays the winner $11,000.

Another new wrinkle being looked into is having each professional bring along an amateur.

"If we're offering $10,000 for first place there's probably 60 pros within our area who will find a way to bring one of their amateurs with them to have a shot at that," Kallem said. "Boom, you're at a 120 man field, that's kind of our sweet spot."

The challenge is managing those numbers, "But I think we're up for that challenge," Kallem said.

Competitive golf is down across the industry, Kallem said. Even the Rosauers, an event he said is the richest type of tournament in the country, struggled to fill the field.

Local amateur tournaments struggled to get players the past half-dozen years. The reason is family commitments.

"It's cultural," Kallem said. "We're becoming more involved with families; we're soccer moms." That's not at all a bad thing, Kallem added. "It reflects on how many guys are able to compete."

Competitive golf is different from recreational golf in that if they are a decent player they want to be able to prepare, Kallem explained. Players are less likely to enter a tournament, which costs them money to begin with, because they don't think they have a chance to be in the money and have other places to "donate" their money.

"That's an industry-wide struggle we have to face, so yes the play was down a little bit," Kallem said.

Just a couple of weeks past the 2014 tournament they are working already to secure a title sponsor and generally spreading the word.

Companies put together their marketing budgets from the upcoming year in October. The Lilac missed that window for 2014.

Kallem said they anticipate to have everything in place by the Golf Show, which takes place each February.

But by all the measurements, even with numbers being down, the 2014 Lilac accomplished its goals, Kallem said.

"Our goal is to A: throw a great party, B: raise a bunch of money for the hospital and C:, provide a big enough purse so we're going to attract high level players," Kallem said.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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