“It’s Motley Crew Monday!”
A pumped up Kirk Elmquist shouts into the Meyer Communications studio microphone to start the first business day following his 46th birthday. The guitar riff on “Kickstart My Heart” blares on air only as long as “Sports Reporters” host Ned Reynolds can stand it.
It is an appropriate start to another full-on workweek for the tournament director of the inaugural Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf at Table Rock Lake. Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar owner John Morris signed on as sponsor of the annual PGA Champions Tour just 90 days before the June 4–8 event dates. Elmquist was hired for the job two months ago.
“Everything going well?” radio station owner Ken Meyer asks Elmquist on his way out the door.
“One-hundred miles an hour. Why don’t you come down and pick up a shovel? We can use some help,” Elmquist jokes with Meyer, his business partner on a few commercial properties.
Off he goes, his pink socks dotted with small purple guitars showing against dark pinstripe pants. Destination: Branson, Elmquist’s home away from home with just 14 days before the first tee shot at par 3 Top of the Rock since 2005.
He’s now in his Toyota Sequoia mobile office on the 40-mile drive to the first stop, another radio spot. This time, it’s a prerecorded interview at Bott Radio Network in Branson.
Elmquist has become adept at taking notes on his steering wheel while driving down the highway – scribbled today in green Sharpie on the cover of his May 19 Springfield Business Journal. He handles a dozen phone calls or voicemails on the road, from pitching $5,000 to $25,000 sponsorship packages and taking comp ticket requests to finding the fourth and final player’s exemption and considering Nadia Cavner’s query about a dinner event.
“Just wanted to check on the status of you helping out Johnny Morris,” Elmquist responds to a representative of Daniel Defense, a firearms manufacturer. “Are those numbers good?”
Elmquist is the hub for a plethora of spokes working together to move along this tournament. It creates a constant barrage of communications: roughly 115 emails, 100 phone calls and 75 text messages each day.
He’s shrugged off tournament celebrity spokesman inquiries by Branson entertainers Barry Williams, Jerry Springer and Shoji Tabuchi, and he’s welcomed some 800 paying volunteers to help manage the four days of pro-am and PGA play.
Another 200 volunteers are sought, but on this Monday, Elmquist’s counter shows 14 days before players arrive. On a midday tour with KOLR 10’s Dan Lucy and his team, the Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve welcome center is wood framed along a gravel road, the main pavement to the clubhouse is being poured, and the greens are getting overseeded. The place is swarming with workers stirring up dust, and the smell of fresh lumber wafts through Arnie’s Barn – the new base for Top of the Rock comprising the clubhouse, history museum and restaurant, where a kitchen fire kicked off eight years of renovations that will culminate with a public reopening June 9.
“It’s not John Morris ready. It’ll be ready come tournament time,” says Elmquist, who’s been working 12-16 hour days and started today on a 4 a.m. call with IMG London, a manager of marquee golf players.
In an afternoon meeting with state of Missouri officials, State Parks Administration and Planning Director Brent Bayer gives Elmquist credit for digging up key promotional facts: The Legends’ field features eight Ryder Cup captains, 19 U.S. Open wins and nearly 30 green jackets.
“I know the governor had those stats in hand today for radio interviews,” says Jacqueline Lapine, the state Office of Administration’s director of digital public relations, on speakerphone.
The call with representatives in Kansas City and Jefferson City ends with Elmquist charging the PR team to promote more on Facebook.
“I understand from my kids that they’re moving from Facebook because their parents are on it. I want to be where the MasterCard holders are to push some ticket sales,” Elmquist says in his cubbyhole office on the lower level of Big Cedar’s main building. “I really feel like the 50-plus generation is still hanging out on Facebook.”
The team later discovers a Legends page has been created on Facebook, but with only four posts and 214 “likes,” its management has been lost in the shuffle.
Sponsors play a key part in the tournament and its $2.75 million purse – the largest on the Champions Tour this year – and Elmquist spends an hour on the phone with Bass Pro executives Stan Lippelman and Andrew George combing through the 100-deep list of sponsors. Earlier in the day, Elmquist signed alcohol distributor Glazer’s Midwest to a $10,000 White River package.
He keeps a tight lid on the sponsorship tally, but the sum has got to exceed $1 million to cover expenses and donations to the tournament’s charities: College of the Ozarks and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Despite any unknowns, one thing is certain: the event will go on.
“Balls haven’t been hit on this golf course for years,” Elmquist says on the deck overlooking hole No. 9. “We’re ready for a tournament.”