On a Sunday afternoon in June at the Travelers Championship, a PGA Tour event played at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, most of the golf world was probably focused on Jordan Spieth, arguably the world’s best player, who was in the final pairing with Boo Weekley.
Another focus for TV viewers could have been the MGM logo prominently displayed on the fly-fishing shirt of Weekly, an avid hunter and fisherman from Florida who foregoes the typical golf polo in favor of fishing outerwear. Weekley is also one of more than 12 tour professionals who are sponsored by MGM Resorts International. He is part of the program because golf fans who frequent MGM resorts in Mississippi and other eastern locales love him.
The roll call of MGM-sponsored players includes Las Vegas residents Natalie Gulbis, Scott Piercy, AJ McInerney, Ryan Moore and Alex Cejka, along with LPGA Tour players Michelle Wie and Cheyenne Woods and 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker, who works with Las Vegas resident Butch Harmon.
Lance Evans, MGM’s vice president of entertainment and marketing/sponsorship, first got serious about the ambassador program when he had an impromptu meeting with Piercy on a driving range a few years ago. Evans quickly signed Piercy and has continued to add players.
“We are always looking to create great experiences for our customers, and we bring in tour players for tournaments regularly,” Evans said. “After we did some due diligence, we learned that the incremental cost to sign them to ongoing brand ambassador deals wasn’t that significant as compared to the cost of just bringing them in for an event.”
The return on investment is in the millions of dollars in exposure, according to Nielson research, but that is just one metric used by Evans. He selects players not only for their ability to generate media exposure but also for their friendliness when interacting with MGM customers.
MGM VIPs enjoy private dinners, clinics, golf tournaments and other outings with the tour pros, while the players are compensated monetarily and given access to MGM rooms, restaurants, shows and other amenities.
Kang’s mind over matter
Las Vegas resident Danielle Kang won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last weekend, and Jerry Foltz, a Las Vegas Golf Hall of Famer and Golf Channel commentator, observed a difference.
“Danielle’s win was one of the best examples in recent memory of the power of positive thinking,” Foltz said. “The way she reacted to things as well as the way she treated herself was far more mature and positive than I’ve seen in the past. Everybody who’s ever picked up a club knows how maddening this game can be. It easily leads to an erosion of self-confidence, and we’ve witnessed that out of Danielle in the past. She could be very hard on herself.
“This week there was a conscious decision on her behalf to accept things in a kinder fashion, all the while knowing in her heart that she had the talent and conviction to win.”
Edmiston defeats Helseth
Las Vegas Country Club pro Jason Edmiston shot 70 to win the Southern Nevada PGA section tournament at Arroyo. Wolf Creek’s Darren Stanek won the senior division with a 68.
Deal of the day
Play Aliante Golf Club this summer and get a bounce-back rate of $21 on your next round.
Stars on, off course
Among the notables scheduled to play in the Coach Mike Woodson Invitational at Cascata on Sunday are former UNLV golfer Seema Sadekar, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and former NBA players Spud Webb, Jason Kidd and Byron Scott.
The golf notebook appears Thursdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @LVGolfInsider on Twitter.
Thursday: Recruit Look Lake Las Vegas, Reflection Bay
Friday-Sunday: Coach Woodson Las Vegas Invitational, Cascata
Sunday: Golf Channel Summer Slam, Las Vegas Paiute
Sunday: Topgolf Tour event, Topgolf Las Vegas
Monday, Tuesday: U.S. Amateur qualifier, Legacy
Tuesday: Night League Kick Off, TaylorMade Golf Experience
July 13: Ping Antigua Junior Prep Series, Las Vegas Golf Club
July 16, 17: SNJGA Summerlin Amateur, TPC/Angel Park
July 16-20: World Stars of Junior Golf, Angel Park
July 17: Women’s SNGA, Las Vegas Country Club
July 19: Ping Antigua Junior Prep Series, Boulder City Golf Club
July 23-25: Nevada State Match Play, Spanish Trail
July 28: WC Golf Channel Warm Up, Las Vegas National
July 29: Major Series of Putting, final qualifier, Red Rock Country Club
July 29, 30: Golf Channel Western Classic, Las Vegas Paiute
Aug. 7: U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier, Chimera
What: Greenbrier Classic.
When: Thursday, Friday, noon-3 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, Sunday, 10-11:30 a.m. (Golf Channel), noon-3 p.m. (KLAS-8).
Where: The Old White TPC (7,287 yards, par 70), White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Purse: $7.1 million (First prize: $1,278,000).
Defending champion: Danny Lee in 2015.
Last week: Kyle Stanley won the Quicken Loans National.
FedEx Cup leader: Dustin Johnson.
Next week: John Deere Classic.
What: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
When: Thursday, Friday, 3-5:30 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, Sunday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. (Golf Channel).
Where: Thornberry Creek at Oneida (6,599 yards, par 72), Oneida, Wisconsin.
Purse: $2 million (First prize: $300,000).
Defending champion: New tournament.
Last week: Las Vegas resident Danielle Kang won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for her first major title.
LPGA money leader: So Yeon Ryu.
Next week: U.S. Women’s Open.
PGA Tour Champions
Last week: Kenny Perry won the U.S. Senior Open.
Charles Schwab Cup leader: Bernhard Langer.
Next week: Constellation Senior Players Championship.