Now in its sixth year as a late-summer golf-based week of festivities involving some of the best players in the world, the Sanford International brings more than $20 million to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area every year.
That means this PGA Tour Champions event, which got its start in 2018, has hit the $100 million mark in economic impact to the region.
Loyalty from spectators and PGA players has become part of the brand in this tournament, as has the commitment from the tournament’s support staff and volunteers. Held annually at Minnehaha Country Club, the International provides a centerpiece for a week that engages the community in ways that extend far beyond the golf course.
It helps that it has been that way from the beginning.
“I want to thank all of you and all of your colleagues and friends across this community who saw this as a priority and believe in it,” Sanford Health president and CEO Bill Gassen told a meeting of the Sioux Falls Rotary Club on Sept. 11 at Minnehaha Country Club.
“At the end of the day it’s an incredible opportunity,” Gassen continued. “It’s an opportunity to showcase what we all believe and know to be one of the greatest communities in this country, one of the greatest places to work, to live, to raise a family and to showcase some of the best in golf.”
An economic impact report in 2020 stated Sanford Health added $2.3 billion to South Dakota’s gross domestic product and more than $4.5 billion to the state’s economy. The Sanford International has become part of that keen level of community engagement, attracting more than $4.1 million in corporate sponsorships.
In addition, every Sanford International has included coverage on the Golf Channel, which is available to nearly 500 million viewers in 80 countries and nine languages around the world. This year, all three rounds will air live, which is a first for the tournament.
Stewardship to the community
“This is one way for us to continue to give back to that community,” said Steve Young, president of Sanford Sports. “We invest in this tournament for the community. It includes a lot of businesses that can utilize the tournament to reach out to their clients, their employees, their colleagues and their business’s potential. They can share it with all the people who make their business a special place.”
Opportunities for partnerships that feature the best of the PGA Tour Champions players exist on several levels for both corporate sponsors and for spectators.
“The Sanford International tournament event aligns with our core values,” said Chris Ekstrum, president and CEO of The First National Bank. “One of our core values at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls is stewardship. We are proud to support the numerous charitable beneficiaries through our partnership with the Sanford International golf tournament.”
At the same time, the people at The First National Bank realize the value that presents itself when a worldwide sporting event comes to your hometown every year. It helps that the Sanford International is known for how well it is run and how well received it is both in the community and within the world of professional golf.
“The tournament is also a fantastic opportunity to host our customers and potential customers,” Ekstrum said. “The Sanford International team has been a valuable resource to us, and their support has helped us receive a return on our investment by assisting us in organizing and planning a meaningful experience for our guests.”
Spectators from around the country
A year ago, spectators from 16 different states purchased tickets to the tournament, signifying national interest in seeing the event and enjoying all that can come with it.
Tim Meagher met some of those folks from other states as chief operating officer of Vanguard Hospitality, which operates Sioux Falls dining establishments Morrie’s Steakhouse, Minervas, Grille 26 and Paramount Cocktails and Food. Over the last five years these places have also earned a distinctive level of loyalty from those aligned with the tournament.
“The tournament week has become the equivalent of the holiday season as far as business,” Meagher said. “A lot of the golfers have become regulars here with the tournament in town. They have their favorite dishes. They’ve grown familiar with our staff. It’s really an enjoyable week for those who work here. It’s like welcoming some old friends back to town.”
Restaurant staffers come away from the week with new stories from their customers and the rewards of a busy week. It represents a section of Sioux Falls’ front porch – as do dozens of other corporate partners when the Sanford International is in town.
“It’s always a great mix of people,” Meagher said. “It doesn’t change our kitchen side of things but what it does change is the hospitality side of things. It’s a combination of excitement and high energy for us to be prepared for the influx of business and the level of execution that comes with it.”
Devoted to well-being
Establishing a tradition of delivering on hospitality is a goal shared by Sanford International staff and aimed at players, spectators and corporate partners. The fact that they all keep coming back year after year offers evidence that their efforts are being recognized.
“I think our partners understand the product we’re going to roll out every year,” said Sanford International tournament director Davis Trosin. “That first year maybe there were some who didn’t know exactly what to expect, but after they got a taste for what we do they understand how beneficial this tournament can be for them in developing relationships with their key stakeholders. They’ve found a way to utilize this event and utilize our platform for their benefit.”
That sense of collaboration creates a team that is collectively devoting its efforts toward the well-being of the community. It includes a partnership with Minnehaha Country Club that was recently extended. It also includes partnerships with the PGA Tour, its players, the crowds, local charities and local merchants.
When Minnehaha Country Club board members voted and agreed to extend the tournament’s partnership with the golf course to 2027, it was an indication of the level of collaboration with the city. The fact that the tournament annually attracts more than 70,000 people for the week is another indication.
“We will continue to do everything we can to make this a unique and special event for everyone involved,” Young said. “We really want to continue to focus on making this a family-friendly environment. There’s something for everybody here, even if you’re not a golfer. You can come out and enjoy the day, enjoy the weather, enjoy the course, enjoy the community, enjoy the roar of a crowd after a big shot or a big putt.”
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