5 Star Stories: FedEx St. Jude Classic

Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Competition in the FedEx St. Jude Championship begins this week at TPC Southwind, where crews are putting on the finishing touches to make this city shine when the golfing world tunes in.

The more than 200-acre Tournament Players Club course at Southwind in southeast Shelby County requires year-round expert care. According to Joe Tomek, Executive Director of the FedEx/St. Jude Championship,

The FedEx St. Jude Classic is back for 2023.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic is back for 2023.(Action News 5)

“The agronomy team do a tremendous job making sure it peaks at the right time to provide a beautiful landscape but also a tough challenge for the pros,” Executive Director Joe Tomek said.

Tomek and his executive team also work year-round behind the scenes.

“You know, it’s a full year of planning, execution and really brainpower to bring it all together,” he added.

In order to “bring it all together again,” everyone is applying what they learned last year to make this year’s championship even better.

“Last year was our first year kicking off the PGA playoffs and everyone got a chance to experience and see what that meant for the city,” Tomek said. “And so, you know, continuing to capitalize on that and ensuring that everyone understands how big of a deal this is and really how pivotal of a tournament this has become on the PGA Tour schedule.”

Pivotal to the tournament’s success is the building of a mini-city on the course, which Tomek says begins in late spring.

The FedEx St. Jude Classic is back for 2023.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic is back for 2023.(Action News 5)

“And for the event and the tents and the structures, that starts the first week of May. So it’s a 4 month build and timeline to get everything set up and ready for all the fans that’ll be here with us.”

Last year, from the start of the build until tear down, took roughly 56,000 man-hours to pull off the Championship.

This year will require much the same, maybe even a little bit more, including at least 97 semi-trailers full of supplies.

“It’s incredible how much goes into it--a ton of vendors, a ton of truckloads of vendor equipment and scaffolding and plywood and tents and all that sort of stuff show up and a lot of them show up at the same time,” explained Tomek.

The build around TPC Southwind’s 18 holes is massive and includes fan areas, food courses, cabanas and clubhouses.

One of the newer happenings concerns the Patriot’s Outpost.

“We’re really honored this year to really honor our active duty and our veteran military leaders by first offering complimentary tickets, but thanks to our great partners at Big River Steel we’ll also have the Patriots’ Outpost back this year. So on the eighth green anyone with a military I.D. will be able to bring in friends and family to a tented structure with a complimentary food and beverage that they’ll be able to see all the action,” Tomek described.

With tee time finally here, momentum kicks into high gear thanks to hundreds of volunteers, many of them former and current FedEx employees, who take care of everything from crowd handling to hushing.

“This year we will have 1,580 volunteers to help us operate. It’s a tremendous effort; people that have been doing for 30-40-50-plus years, so really dedicate to give up their full week, if not multiple weeks out of the year to help us. And it’s a tremendous burden off my team that we can show up and as soon as golf starts. It’s really the volunteers that run this thing,” revealed Tomek about the volunteers proud to do the work that makes Memphis shine in the national spotlight under the scrutiny of 70 of the golfing world’s best.

“And we want to make sure everyone has something to do and something to enjoy. So whether you’re a fan of golf or not, we hope you come out and celebrate this city, celebrate the great charity and St. Jude and always a great reminder that kids get in free.”

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