Behind the Scenes at a Major Amateur Golf Tournament
Monroe CC head pro Jim Mrva with<br>top finishers in 2013
Monroe CC head pro Jim Mrva with
top finishers in 2013
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!!

ABOUT THE Monroe Invitational

Small-field invitational event played on a great par 70 Donald Ross course. 72 hole stroke play championship dates back to 1937. No cut. Once the final field is determined by the MIC Selection Committee, official invitations will be issued.

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