On the eve of golf championship play in Memphis, Bluff City vendors learn about ‘business of golf’

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 4:27 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The upcoming FedEx St. Jude Championship isn’t just about sport. It’s also about business — a multi-billion dollar per year business.

Golf is a big moneymaker, bringing in $84 billion per year, and those in the industry are wanting local Memphis companies to join the team.

From infrastructure to security to even craft jewelry, the number of vendors it takes to create the perfect golf experience may surprise you.

“Anything that says locally-owned or supports local businesses... people don’t mind paying for that,” said National Golf Course Owners Association Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships Mike Ketterman.

A group of golf industry experts that appeared on a panel in Memphis on Wednesday is also trying to move golf away from how the sport has been viewed historically.

“Now is eyes open,” panel moderator Gina Rizzi said. “We need to be diverse. We need to be inclusive and we need to look more like America.”

Representatives from top golf organizations including the LPGA, PGA of America and PGA Tour say their organizations want to work with more diverse and local vendors and suppliers.

“When you have fans coming in, they want to see an experience authentic to them,” LPGA CFO Kathy Milthrope said. “If you built here in Memphis and brought a Florida experience it wouldn’t be the same as having sweet tea and the different local flavors.”

There’s plenty of room for Memphis suppliers as the panel said most of their main vendors will contract directly with local businesses.

Leading up to the start of play at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, local vendors and business leaders learned and asked questions about making golf their business on Wednesday.

“Your tier-one vendors versus your local vendors... is there a standard you’re trying to reach as it relates to that?” Greater Memphis Chamber President Beverly Robertson asked.

“What I plan to do is share your connect with our membership to ensure our local businesses here can register for that platform,” responded President and CEO of the Mid-South Minority Business Continuum Jozelle Booker.

That platform Booker referenced is the golf industry’s Diverse Supplier Portal and Database, which can match diverse businesses to the industry as needed. Businesses can sign up on the database here.

Golf leaders said the sport is changing as more women, girls and minority players are hitting the green. They want that representation behind the scenes, too.

“Diversity is what we are as a country, and the golf industry needs to look more like that,” Rizzi said.

Those experts say a diverse business includes everything from women and minority-owned to even veteran-owned businesses and businesses owned by and employing people with disabilities.

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