This week’s ‘It’ event: Businesses embrace ties to Sanford International

Sept. 17, 2018

One business leader compared it to planning a wedding.

Another brewed a special beer for it.

And across the Sioux Falls business community, tickets have been offered, special viewing areas are being set up, and unique collaborations are coming together for this week’s Sanford International.

The first year of a five-year stop on the PGA Tour Champions will turn Minnehaha Country Club into a venue unlike anything seen in Sioux Falls. While tournament play runs Friday through Sunday, the club will host a week of events, including a Pro-Am, women’s day and practice rounds.

“You’re starting to hear the noise,” said Kelby Krabbenhoft, CEO of title sponsor Sanford Health. “This is a dream come true for us. We knew from the beginning we’d be plowing new ground.”

With $3 million in business sponsorships, a crowd estimated to reach 80,000 throughout the week and an estimated television audience of 330 million households, the event will reach a scale unlike any that has occurred in Sioux Falls.

“The community is all in on it,” Krabbenhoft said.

“Golf is really in the business community’s orbit. The business community is always involved in golf wherever you go. It’s been a marriage between the business community and that sport forever, but it’s probably become America’s No. 1 charitable sport. We started talking real humbly about sponsorships … but we’ve already exceeded our target.”

Businesses connect

Eighteen months ago, Josh Brewster was living in South Florida.

An employee of Pro Links Sports, which puts on tournaments nationwide, he moved to Sioux Falls to become assistant director of the Sanford International.

He and a small team have worked full time on the event ever since.

“From the business community on the sponsorship front, it’s been unbelievable,” he said. “For a first-year event, the support has been fantastic. We set a goal early on to raise $3 million, and we passed that with 45 days to spare.”

With Sanford as the title sponsor, Minnesota-based Cambria came on as the presenting sponsor.

During an initial meeting with Sioux Falls business leaders, it was stressed that “it’s a very giving community, but there are limits, and we don’t want other events to suffer,” Brewster said.

“The Sioux Falls community has been fantastic, but as a staff we went outside the community to get sponsorship dollars. We have companies from Fargo, Pierre, Omaha; it’s not just a Sioux Falls-financed event.”

Twin Cities-based Energy Management Collaborative will join Midco as the sponsors of each day of the Pro-Am.

Wells Fargo & Co. is sponsoring a junior clinic for kids Saturday that will include Jack Nicklaus and other pros. It includes a $1 million commitment to The First Tee through 2020.

“One life lesson important to Wells Fargo is personal finance, so by partnering with The First Tee South Dakota, we’re able to combine personal finance advice and golf lessons for children of all ages,” said Corey Heaton, region bank president for Wells Fargo in South Dakota. “This helps them prepare for success both on and off the course.”

Austad’s Golf will have a visible presence at the entrance to Minnehaha Country Club, with a pavilion that serves as a 3,000-square-foot, air-conditioned store.

“It has been quite a project,” CEO Dave Austad said.

“You’ll hit our tent first. So we worked really hard with Under Armour and Adidas and our manufacturers and did a lot of Sanford International logo mugs and head covers and golf balls and caps. A good percentage of apparel will have the logo on it, some won’t, so if you want a memento you can stop in and purchase that.”

Pro-Am players will receive gift cards for Austad’s that also are good in the store, and Austad’s is selling tickets there. Several of the pros are scheduled to appear there too.

One of the most popular sellers likely will be a replica of the flag flying at the International, which will include a marker and is designed for autographing.

“The guys out there are very accessible,” Austad said. “I’ve been to a number of events, and they’re very friendly. I think kids will eat it up.”

The Austad’s pavilion will include a bar and TV screens.

“It’s not a bad place to hang out even if you’re not a golfer,” he said. “There will be college football on Saturday, the Vikings on Sunday, and right out the door is the practice range, and you can watch the top guys hit balls. Even if someone isn’t a golfer, they will enjoy the experience. This is the first time South Dakotans have had to get this close to PGA pros, and I just encourage people to do it.”

A pavilion on hole 17 also is expected to be popular. It’s filled with 25 businesses that purchased tables there and will include food and beverages.

“It’s a shared hospitality venue, where a company purchases a table to entertain,” Brewster said. “I think 17 Falls Pavilion will kind of be the place to be.”

For more private viewing, many businesses have purchased chalets and skyboxes overlooking the 18th hole. Ranging from $50,000 to $65,000, they include up to 50 tickets for guests each day.

“So we’re touching 150 of our customers, plus we get host passes on top of that,” said Derek Ohme, business banking group vice president at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls.

“It’s like planning for a three-day wedding. We’ve spent the last year planning for this event.”

The bank hired The Event Co. to help with turning its chalet into an experience meant to reflect its brand.

“It will be first class,” Ohme said. “The VIP passes will create an exclusive opportunity for our customers and let them know how much we appreciate them. It’s an opportunity to have intimate conversations with our customers and prospects and offer a ‘wow’ experience inside Sioux Falls. I think this event is going to create just as much buzz as anything we’ve seen around here, and we wanted to be a part of that.”

Businesses are able to consider their sponsorships as charitable contributions because funds raised at the Sanford International will benefit the Sanford Health Foundation and its initiatives.

“It’s a great opportunity for Sioux Falls, and we wanted to be a partner in being able to elevate Sioux Falls in the national sports arena, as well as give back to our clients and community by having a presence there,” said Jenny Wolff, a communication strategist with Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company, which also has a chalet.

Doling out those passes wasn’t easy, all involved said.

First National tried to focus on clients it thought would enjoy the experience, but “the process was very, very difficult and we missed names, I’m sure,” Ohme said. “That’s the reality.”

Howalt+McDowell also was surprised by the strong interest in attending, Wolff said.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but it was definitely much higher than we anticipated, in a good way,” she said. “But it codifies that it was a good event for us to participate in and a great thing for the Sioux Falls community to have come to town. We were basically full after our first round of invitations went out in July.”

First Premier Bank, which sponsored a skybox, had a similar response.

“We’ve got a big matrix laid out for how we’re giving tickets to customers, and our employees are volunteering, and we’re excited about it,” CEO Dana Dykhouse said, agreeing it was difficult to decide on invitations.

“The only good thing is with so many local businesses inviting people, hopefully everyone will be invited,” he said. “It’s just, for us, one of the things that raises the profile of Sioux Falls. It raises our whole community up as a major league city.”

For GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness, the Sanford International presented multiple opportunities to promote golf and give back, CEO Tom Walsh said.

“We got involved with Sanford and golf, and I’ve been involved with quite a few years through the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, and more importantly we’ve got common missions. The relationship and missions are the two big reasons we’re involved,” he said.

GreatLIFE is sponsoring a grandstand on the 16th green that will hold 150 people, “so that will be a popular spot,” Walsh said.

“And we’re sponsoring access along the bike path off No. 16, so you can come from 12th or 41st or on the bridge from Granite City.”

The first 500 GreatLIFE members to stop by the GreatLIFE table Friday through Sunday will receive a drink ticket for a free soft drink.

GreatLIFE also is supporting the Champions of Charity, “and we’re doing a significant contribution for all the children’s charities they support,” Walsh said.

While the golf and fitness organization is using its skybox to entertain corporate partners, it’s opening up spots there too.

“We’ll do some social media opportunities for people to join us up there, and we’ll look at tieing some kind of promotion into it as well,” Walsh said.

And for Minnehaha Country Club members displaced from their access to golf, fitness and tennis for 10 days, GreatLIFE established a partnership to provide complimentary access to its facilities.

“It’s a win-win,” Walsh said.

Food and drink

While the event will have standard outdoor fare available  – think hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches – some locally made treats will create customized flavors.

Stensland Family Farms was asked to provide ice cream, soft serve, cheese and milk at the tournament as well as develop an ice cream flavor for the Sanford International.

After brainstorming with Sanford and its R&D team, Stensland set out to create a flavor pleasing to kids and adults that incorporated Sanford’s blue color. The winner: Sanford Swirl, a lemon cheesecake base with vanilla cookie crumbles, swirled with graham and blue raspberry.

“It will be launched at the Sanford Invitational and available in our dipping cabinet at our 41st Street location that same week,” said Leah Moller of Stensland.

“Following the Sanford Invitational, everyone will be able to purchase this signature flavor in quarts at local Lewis locations as we’re partnering with Lewis Cares, and proceeds from the Sanford Swirl quarts purchases from Lewis stores will be donated to Sanford Children’s Hospital.”

Stensland will be serving soft serve at a “malt wagon” on the course and will have volunteers dipping Sanford Swirl and other flavors in the Pro-Am and players’ dining area.

Other sweet treats will include Flyboy Donuts, which will have its truck at the tournament Wednesday through Sunday.

“We’re excited to have a great location for the food truck near the driving range where most of the tournament guests will be walking by, so it will be easy for them to grab a doughnut and coffee,” owner Ben Duenwald said. “We expect our fresh roasted Flyboy Coffee to be very popular as we are the only coffee vendor there.”

Flyboy will be offering a “bucket of balls” in the form of donut holes and some golf-inspired doughnuts.

Fernson Brewing Co. was equally deliberative in developing a signature brew for the tournament.

“We put our heads together to come up with something that would make the beer more of an integral part of the event — the story — and less of a ubiquitous adult beverage you can find at any sporting event. We really wanted to make it special,” Fernson’s Joel Thompson said.

They ended up with Wedge, a Kolsch-style ale brewed with Lemondrop hops.

“Our objective was to have a crisp, easy-drinking, low-ABV beer that had just a touch of citrus on it ,and I think our brewers Blake Thompson and Derek Fernholz did an awesome job executing on that objective,” Thompson said.

Then came the visuals. The Fernson design team collaborated with Sanford marketing to come up with a can label that paid homage to golf, the beer and the Sanford International experience.

While crafting the beer was fun, creating something for the community is the best part, he said.

“We get to showcase beer all the time. Projects like Wedge are our opportunity to give back a little bit and have some fun with other organizations in our community while we’re doing it.”

The beer will be available Wednesday through Sunday in each of the course’s beer gardens and beverage tents. If there’s any left over, it will be rolled out to stores across Sioux Falls.

“I have to give a bunch of credit to them,” Thompson said of tournament organizers. “They’ve seemed to work really hard to make sure the community story found its way into every corner of the tournament.”

This week’s ‘It’ event: Businesses embrace ties to Sanford International

Across the Sioux Falls business community, tickets have been offered, special viewing areas are being set up and unique collaborations are coming together for this week’s Sanford International.

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