by JP Kircher, AmateurGolf.com Player Staff
Since 2012, I have had a major impact on the
Monroe Invitational Championship (or MIC for short).
I have always been very passionate about this event,
as I grew up at Monroe and vividly remember
collecting college logo balls from the players when I
was around 10-12 years old. I have quite a
collection - including quite a few PGA Tour winners.
The event was always a highlight to kicking off my
summer vacation. I would look up to these guys,
and we would always host Auburn players. A list of
them include Jason Dufner, Roland Thatcher, and
Patton Kizzire to just name a few. One year we had
a couple Alabama players in the field and hosted
them (my mom made sure to put orange and blue
sheets on their beds). Through the years, I would
follow all the mini tours and keep tabs on players,
every now and then running into them as I would
caddy on the Hooters for Kevin Haefner and recently
the Web.com for Will Claxton and Dominic Bozzelli.
I also had the luck of playing in the event a few
times, finishing 13th one of the years. It was always
a true honor to play my home tournament, especially
one that meant so much to me growing up. I was
also able to bring back some of my college
teammates to play a couple years as well.
I've played a lot of amateur, college, and junior
events through my life. As a player, I was always
kind of oblivious to the behind the scenes work that
goes into running an event, as I'm sure most other
players are. My dad has been Chairman of the MIC
since about 2009 (just estimating), but I was always
away at school so I never got to see the work he put
into it. He is also really bad with computers, and
I'm amazed that he was able to do what he did with
the tournament. I just kind of assumed a date was
set, people signed up, and poof, we had a golf
tournament. 2011 was the last year I played in the
MIC. That summer, I told Keith Williams that I
wanted to help out with the event. Keith is a Co-
Director of the event, and I can honestly say it would
not go on without him.
My goal was to help out building the field. I
figured I could relate very well to the players we
were inviting, and with a social media presence
make the tournament a real draw. I wanted to get
the field on par with tournaments like the Porter
Cup, and really felt that I could. Keith and I got to
work that fall. We gathered emails for every coach
we could around the country, we worked diligently
sending notes congratulating players on top events,
sending reminder emails, researching people that
might slip through the cracks due to red-shirting or
maybe having an off fall. It was a grind, but it was
a lot of fun. The field was really capped off when Thomas Pieters
from Illinois won the NCAA a week and half or so
before the event. I remember it was a Thursday,
and Jim Mrva (head pro) must have hit refresh on
his iPhone a thousand times. It was the first time
we could remember having the NCAA Champion in
the field. He showed up with a lot of hype, and
proved himself by winning our event.
We built up a great relationship with Team
Canada, and their coach Derek. They have
consistently supplied us with great players (2014 we
had their entire national team). Even as their
rankings improved, they showed loyalty and
continued to return to the event, making it very
memorable and special, especially as Taylor Pendrith
won last year.
There are many challenges that go into an
event. Keith starts planning pretty much
immediately after the awards ceremony concluding
the event. He looks back at things he can change.
He keeps notes on what was good and bad, listens
and gets to know the players finding out what they
might like to see improved. Keith is able to do all of
this because he is retired. He also logs over 200
rounds a year at Monroe (amazing considering our
winters). I remember showing up to work this fall
and having an email where he was asking what days
we serve breakfast - sidenote, the MIC breakfast
sandwiches are amazing. He gets a whole schedule
of events lined up, has meetings with club managers
to make sure everything is queued up, and maintains
a workbook where he constantly updates player
information, like rankings, recent tournaments, and
contact information. I think Keith might have missed
his calling as an event planner, to be honest (this is
all volunteer work). We scrape through applications,
trying to fit them into a limited field (we try to cap
off around 75 players, which is really difficult).
Honestly, we definitely miss out on quite a few
players, but I hope it is not taken personal. This is
one of the more difficult parts of the work - trying to
decide based on playing resumes who we want in the
field. With well over 200 applicants a year, it is hard
to please everyone.
Another area that definitely gets overlooked is
the golf shop staff. I never realized this myself
while I was playing, because I would just get done
playing an event and go home. Over the past few
years, I would say our PGA staff rivals no one.
These guys live and breathe through the MIC -
driving themselves to countless overtime hours
through the week. It's unreal how much time can go
into setting up the course, scoreboards, making sure
rules officials and media have proper help, and
keeping players happy, not to mention the
overbearing parents that show up. I'm thinking my
next sentence could cause some trouble, as I think
Jim Mrva either forgot, or he chose not to listen, but
this past year a couple of the Assistants camped out
in the pro shop for the week because of the hours
they were working. My dad, even though he lives off
the 5th green, decided to join them for couple nights.
If you played in the event you might have noticed he
had the same clothes on for a few days in a row.
I think I've gotten a little side tracked here, but
I hope I've been able to provide some insight into
this event, as well as the work that goes into others.
If you are lucky enough to play events like the Monroe Invitational, Northeast Amateur, or Porter Cup, try and take a few
extra minutes to thank the folks that are helping out.
They are there because they have a passion for
amateur golf - and remember, they are giving up
their course so that you can be there for a week.
I'm really looking forward to the field this year. Our
dates have fallen in a great gap, and we already
have some quality players signed up. If you want
some more information, check out
www.monroeinvitational.com . If you run your own
tournament, maybe you could provide some insight
or stories of your own!!