October 15, 2007–FRYS.com, according to 2007 tournament chairman Gary Davis, helped save the PGA Tour in Las Vegas, but after two years, they are leaving as title sponsor, handing the reigns to the Shriners, who this year took over as the host organization. The Shriners are self-described as one of the "biggest secrets" in philanthropy, and have created a new branding and PR campaign moving forward, and working with Las Vegas and the PGA Tour is a spring board for those efforts. The Shriners operate 22 hospitals worldwide, and have an annual operating budget of more than $700 million that will soon become about a billion dollars. The funds are generated from an endowment, and the Shriners are always seeking new benefactors. And the golf demographic is a perfect fit according to Ralph W. Semb, Chairman, Board of Trustees for Shriners Hospitals for Children. The new name of the event will be the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the event will be played the week of October 6-12, 2008. The agreement gaurantees the event to be in Las Vegas through 2012 and played at Las Vegas golf course TPC Summerlin.
"The Shriners are the biggest secret in the world," Semb says. "Golf is a great vehicle for us to spread our message, and we know the golfers have a history of helping people. And we want the people of Las Vegas to know that we are here to stay."
The Shriners have been involved with the East-West Shrine college football game for 83 years, and Semb says that the Shriners are known for making long term commitments to events and communities.
Other changes in 2008 include a new format that will feature a large celebrity pro-am on Wednesday, and then the actual PGA Tour event will only be played at TPC Summerlin with only PGA Tour players competing. The TPC Canyons will no longer be in the rotation, and there will be no amateurs playing alongside the pros during actual competition.
The word is that several A list Hollywood celebrities are already committing to the event, with more news forthcoming.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a network of facilities in North America that provides superior medical care at no charge to children under the age of 18. The first Shriners Hospital opened in Shreveport, LA in 1922, and the network today encompasses 22 hospitals in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Shriners Hospitals for Children has spent $11 million treating children in Southern Nevada.
Official Gary Davis and Ralph W. Semb Press Conference transcript
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you for joining us this afternoon for this very special announcement. I would like to introduce Gary Davis, the tournament chairman of the Frys.com Open benefit Shriners Hospital for Children. Gary, if you would like to come to the podium. Thank you.
GARY DAVIS: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here this afternoon. We're very excited about the progress of the tournament this year. We're thankful, first of all, to Fry's Electronics. If it wasn't for Fry's stepping in last year and this year as well this tournament may have well left Las Vegas. So very thankful to them for their financial support and what they've done. As you know, the Shriners Hospitals for children has been the host organization this year. And we work together with the PGA TOUR over the summer talking about this event. The further we got into it, we made the decision that we wanted this tournament to be in Las Vegas long-term.
We talked about the viability of the PGA TOUR remaining in Las Vegas, and everybody agreed that it needs to stay in Las Vegas, that this is the first step towards major sports in Southern Nevada. I know the mayor has talked a lot about football and basketball, professional baseball, but we do have a professional event in the PGA TOUR. So we're very excited about that.
The thing that we want to announce today and make very clear is that the PGA TOUR is here in Las Vegas to stay as a result of the Shriners Hospital stepping up to become not only the host organization in the future but to become the title sponsor. The new name of the tournament will be known as the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. We're very excited about that. We have a five-year commitment.
If any of you are familiar with the east/west Shrine football game, that's been around for 83 years. So once the Shriners put their name onto something, they're usually going to hang on. We think it's going to be a long-term marriage. We're very excited to work with the PGA TOUR. We've had a lot of positive feedback this week from the players who support the charity.
In fact, we had one of the professional players asked us how you become a Shriner, so that was pretty exciting, as well.
With me this afternoon is Ralph Semb. I'd like to introduce Ralph. Ralph is the chairman of Shriners Hospitals for children. We'd be happy to answer any questions, as well. He's my immediate boss. We're thankful for the Shriners participation. We've had just a great week here as well.
Also I'd like to introduce to you and have her come up at this point is Katie Walker. Many of you have been introduced to Katie and seen her around. This is what this tournament is about and what future of this event is, is to help the children that we do.
Katie has been a Shriners patient since she was born. For those of you who don't know, she's 18 years old now and is in college on a professional golf scholarship, golf scholarship to Cal-State Bakersfield. We wanted to have her in the field this week play as amateur, but the NCAA said that's not allowed if you're not at an official school function. So she got her Friday night, helped to hand out trophies to our amateur winners, be around this weekend. That's what this is all about, si giving exposure to the Shriners and the good work they do. I'll ask Ralph to say a few words and we'll take any questions you might have.
RALPH SEMB: Thank you. It's a pleasure on behalf of Shriners Hospital for children to again thank Fry's Electronics for the Fry's Pro-Am they've had here this past week. It's been a pleasure to work with the Fry family and the entire company. We're very privileged we had the opportunity to meet with that company and become a title sponsor and help them host this tournament this year.
I've asked Gary to fill in and do the job, and he's done a tremendous job. But we're even happier now to let everybody in the Las Vegas area know that we are here to stay. We have signed a five-year commitment. Like he said, we've been around for 85 years in the hospital business. We want to make sure that everybody in the Las Vegas area and the world knows that in Las Vegas alone we've treated over 2500 children over the last 10 years.
Of course, we are the biggest secret in the world, and nobody knows that we've probably spent over $10 million taking care of those children. The Katies that we have in the many hospitals we take care of these children in. We're proud to be in Las Vegas. We're proud to help Las Vegas grow. We're proud to know that Las Vegas is going to learn the work that Shriners Hospitals for children do, not only in orthopaedics, but in burns, in spinal cord injury, and we've taken upon our mission now, cleft lip and pallet simply because it's still considered — it's considered cosmetic surgery, not something that every parent can handle. Insurance certainly will not take care of it.
We have 22 hospitals. Over budget this year is $721 million. We get that money, that comes from the interest earned on the endowment fund. We cannot touch the money in the endowment fund. We do not take insurance. We do not take any federal funding. We are organization that's been proud for 85 years to know and to take care of children at no cost. We give the most expert care at no cost to any family. So we're proud to be here. We're proud to make sure that Las Vegas is going to see a professional event continue on here for many, many years to come.
Thank you, Gary.
GARY DAVIS: In conjunction with this announcement, we are letting you know today that the format is going to change. As you know, this tournament over the past 25 years has had many, many different formats involving amateurs from the very beginning. But we're going to go back to more or less the roots of the tournament, which is to really attract the celebrity crowd, to make this a true Las Vegas event. That's what the committee wanted to do from the very beginning.
So next year we're going to have a one-day celebrity Pro-Am which will be Wednesday pretournament. Once we start on Thursday, it will be professionals only on Thursday through Sunday. We'll be utilizing only one course, TPC Summerlin.
We might have some ancillary tournaments at the other course at TPC Canyons to benefit local charities as well. But the primary focus will be here at TPC Summerlin.
Any questions you might have, we'll be happy to answer.
Q. Ralph, why is this financially a sound decision by the Shriners to not only make the commitment you did prior to the title sponsorship, and also how much additional does this mean that the Shriners have to put up to make this thing go the next five years?
RALPH SEMB: Well, the biggest thing for us is to make sure that the world knows who Shriners are. We are the biggest secret in the world. If you go around the cities as we found out when we do capital fund-raising, people don't know who we are, what we do. That's why we want to be out. We've actually started a whole new branding initiative. I have that on here, which is a new logo that we have. It's always been a Shriners carrying a child a crutch.
As I stated earlier, we do more be orthopaedic surgeries. We do cleft lip and pallet now. We do burns. We have four of the verified 44 burn centers in this world. We're very proud of that. We do research. We do education. There's so many things we do out there. A lot of your pediatric orthopaedic surgeons do their residency training at Shriners Hospital for children because of the teaching facility that we have.
What we're asking is how can we afford to put this up. It's because people are going to get to know who we are. They're going to help us put money in that endowment fund. I can foresee in the next four years, our budget is going to be about $1 billion a year. When I said we don't take any federal funding, we don't take any insurance, we got to get endowment fund that's going to reach 12 to 14 billion dollars. The only way we can do it is to tell people what we do and how we help children in their communities.
Q. Public relations-wise, great advertising campaign with golf as the vehicle?
RALPH SEMB: That's correct. Golf is a great vehicle because many people out there play golf. We know those people are very interested in helping children as well.
Q. This tournament costs several million dollars a year to put up.
RALPH SEMB: I think it's about five or six million.
Q. That means the Shriners are going to takeover the whole ball of wax?
RALPH SEMB: We're out there looking for people to help us with that as well. We'll look for sponsors that will come in and help us support the tournament.
Q. If I put in the paper tomorrow that your annual commitment is $6 million, I'm accurate?
RALPH SEMB: Yes. We're committing that amount of money, that's correct.
Q. Have you been able to gauge attendance yet this week?
GARY DAVIS: We've done nothing to gauge how many people are here. What we've really focused on this year was building the foundation. We started four months ago, a little over four months ago. Literally the hill came into place as experiment to get people that had opportunity to come view a golf course from a major vantage point without having to put up a lot of money.
We charged $15 this year to get on the hill. The entire population that came to the golf tournament was entitled to go to the feast at the hill, have some fantastic food. We had nothing to start from or to judge what would be here attendance-wise.
We know that we've had what we feel are bigger crowds than what's been here in the past. We're working on a base to build from for the future. We think we have a great platform and set the standard to build from here.
Q. Gary, do you anticipate doing it the same time in October?
GARY DAVIS: Right now the tournament for next year is set for October 6th through the 12th. That will be the tournament week. We work in conjunction with the PGA TOUR. They set the schedule with us. That's already been determined.
One of the things that we've been working on, as well, from the standpoint of this tournament, what we'd like to do in the future, is step one, is we now have a title sponsorship in place for multiple years. The second phase is to make this a highly successful tournament, to bring back the celebrity status we once had that the original people that put on the tournament did a great job with.
The next step is to involve the City of Las Vegas and the convention and visitors' authority is behind us, and resort association. What we're doing from there is our long-term goal and dream is to actually get this back inside the FedExCup points, their system. We let the PGA TOUR know eventually if there is opening that comes up in the spring, that would be a great time to come to Las Vegas, as well, we'd like to be considered for that opening.
Q. What has the response been for being considered for that opening?
GARY DAVIS: Absolutely positive. They've embraced this. The PGA TOUR has been overwhelmingly supportive of us as a host organization and also as a title sponsor going forward. They have helped us tremendously with staff, people to come out, give us direction, give us guidance. They feel very strongly that the PGA TOUR needs to remain in the Las Vegas market and would be favorable towards moving it into a more positive light, if you will, if that opening becomes available.
Q. How confident are you with this change in format, given the fact a lot of pros are a little bit hesitant to want to play with amateurs over extended period, then you might be able to increase the talent of the field? You had 10 of the top 50 money winners playing this year.
GARY DAVIS: That's obviously one of the things that we wanted to do, was to change the format where we would have the opportunity to attract a stronger field.
But I have to be truthful with you. Jim Furyk wasn't here this year, and it wasn't because he protested against amateurs. He just told us he had been here 13 years in a row, was a little bit tired, wanted to take some time off, but committed to come back next year.
I've had calls from other PGA TOUR players that have let me know they're going to be with us next year. Didn't have anything to do with the amateurs. I've talked to several of the players and told them about the new format, what we're thinking about doing. Quite frankly, a lot of the players that are here enjoy playing with the amateurs.
The comment that was made to me was we're out beating each other up each week in a lot of the tournaments. It's kind of refreshing to go out and play with some amateurs, get to know what other people do in life. They deal with some corporate sponsors, so it's been refreshing as well.
Q. Wednesday is a celebrity Pro-Am. Does that mean the guys who pay 12,000 to play this week will not be able to play because you'll be handpicking who participates?
GARY DAVIS: Absolutely not. That's never been our intention, nor will it be. The average guy that wants to play in procelebrity Pro-Am puts his money up. He'll have the opportunity to play. We're going to involve as many amateurs professionals and celebrities.
Q. Will it be 12,000 to play one day with the pros?
GARY DAVIS: We haven't determined. We're in the infancy of this program. We have not even set exactly how many celebrities we'll have in the field obviously or what the fee will be to play.
Q. Hypothetically, let's say you are able to attract a vast array of celebrities both in Hollywood, music, sports, is there a fear that your gallery could be bigger on Wednesday for that celebrity Pro-Am because people want to see the stars and have it drop off Thursday through Sunday? Is there a danger in this?
GARY DAVIS: We've never even considered that. I will have to tell you that from the people that we've talked to, even from the other members of the board of governors for the Shriners, I've told them all along what we're doing and they can't conceive or get in their mind exactly what the hill is, what this event is all about until they get here and see it.
I think what we would like to do is attract as many people as possible on Wednesday and it will give them the idea they want to come back and see the professionals.
I played in this a number of years, and always after I got done playing, I've always wanted to come back out on the weekend and see how my pro did. I think there's a following of that. I've heard from a lot of players that I've bumped into in this week. They're out following around the pros they played with, build a bond. So that's part of the relationship they we want to establish and continue to build on.
Q. You thought attendance surpassed the last few years. It's hard to believe when you consider that nobody was really out here Thursday and Friday, and even yesterday there was plenty of room to get around here. It wasn't as though you were elbow to elbow with the galleries.
GARY DAVIS: The only thing I have to judge that on, we don't have hard numbers. The only thing I have to judge that on is based on what several of the vendors have told us, several of the people that have been around the tournament, several of the people that have worked this event in the past from both the PGA TOUR side and others have said that they feel there's a stronger attendance this year than have been in recent years.
Q. Will you be releasing some sort of official attendance figures, or are you going leave it up to us to guess?
GARY DAVIS: My guess would be the same as yours. We've really not done anything on true attendance along that line, no.
Q. You're obviously doing stuff with celebrities to get people out here, the hill. Would it not be true to say, though, until you get into the spring, you're going to have a ceiling in terms of who will come and play? Ultimately if you ever want to get to where you want to get to, don't you have to get into the spring?
GARY DAVIS: Well, that's obvious one of our goals. Every professional sport has a season. Golf has the longest one. It's year-round. Some of the guys truly are ready to take some time off.
But I think we'll be able to attract a better field in the future. We're looking forward to that, a stronger field. We're very proud of the players that are here. We're very thankful for them. We've gone out of our way to make sure they understand we're thankful for them participating.
Most of the players have told us they love coming to Vegas, they love participating in this event, and don't mind the amateur format.
We obviously would like to attract some of the bigger names in golf and give the fans of Las Vegas a chance to be up close and see the people they see on TV. That is our ultimate goal.
Q. And the purse?
GARY DAVIS: Right now the purse is remaining at $4 million.
Q. Have you had any feedback this year from players that played this event in the past about things you might be doing different that you guys might be doing better or not?
GARY DAVIS: Well, I'm very happy to say that many of the players have come up and given me a pat on the back and said, Thanks for trying to make this a better event for us. We know you took it over in short notice and are doing a lot of things in your mind that make this thing of positive. We embrace the changes.
They've had a good time. I've had nothing but positive feedback on what's transpired this year.
Q. Any issues with parking this week?
GARY DAVIS: I've actually not heard one issue on parking. It's been running pretty smoothly. We have the buses running on a regular basis. Short distance to the lot. Thankfully I haven't had one parking issue come up this week that I've heard of.
Q. I would think from a management standpoint, having one course next year will make it so much easier for you to do the things that you really want to do. Could you address those things you'll try to do to build on what you did this year.
GARY DAVIS: Certainly. Logistically, it takes a lot to be at two courses, put on two separate tournaments in essence. You have the same type of duplication of services you have to provide for both courses. Parking is a bigger issue at TPC Canyons. When you attract the bigger players, that's issue there, even for the players to find sufficient parking, the people that work on our committees and so forth.
We think that both courses have played real well. Haven't had any complaints about either course. I've asked a lot of the professionals what they thought. They've said both courses are fair, they enjoyed them. We would like to get into a position, though, where we can focus all of our attention on one course, one format, take care of everything here.
RALPH SEMB: I'd like to thank Fry's and I'd like to thank the PGA TOUR people, because they've been outstanding in helping Shriners Hospitals for children and our fraternity understands what we are getting into.
When you bring a patient like Katie Walker here, who knows when she was a little tot she had to have a number of leg apparatuses, we've been able to supply them on a regular basis, and we'll continue to do that till she's 21.
We have a little flexibility, al thought we treat children up to 18, as chairman of the board, they have the opportunity to always sign off until they're 21. As a matter of fact, we do follow-up until they're in their 30s.
We are a family organization treating children, but we treat the families as well. So on behalf of the Shriners Hospitals for Children, we want to thank Gary Davis for the excellent job he has done in putting this executive committee together that we have here in Las Vegas that will stay here and stay together, Fry's Electronics, thank them for giving us opportunity to be a part of it, and the PGA TOUR people who have certainly gone out of their way to make sure the Shriners going to be a great sponsor of this event for many years to come.
GARY DAVIS: Thank you.