I don’t suppose you’ve ever wondered about the logistics of looking after the world’s media at a major sporting event, have you? Well, despite having attended scores of golf’s majors as a member of said media, I’m ashamed to confess that I hadn’t really given the subject much thought. It’s one of those things you barely notice when it’s done well but, boy, do you notice and complain when it’s done badly. And it won’t surprise you to learn that we can be a very demanding lot!
Welcome to the world of Pete Kowalski, Director, Championship Communications, for the United States Golf Association. This is his 18th year at the helm and he likens his job at a US Open to doing his Master of Science thesis. It’s hard work, bits of it he doesn’t enjoy, struggles abound and it’s imperative to fight to the end. But when it’s all over, hopefully, you feel tired, happy and proud.
Kowalski usually works to a two-year plan for each Open – he is already working on the 2017 edition at Erin Hills in Wisconsin – and has a 20 strong full-time team in the communications department, ably aided and abetted by 20 volunteers in the media centre. It’s no mean feat to provide media support and services at a US Open. It encompasses looking after almost a thousand accredited media from around the world, running the interview room and the flash area (an area for quick interviews with the players at the scorer’s trailer), overseeing media dining and working with local TV affiliates. Thankfully, the TV broadcast area is so extensive now that that requires a whole other team of its own.
So, what does Pete consider a successful week for his Communications team?
“I want every media person to feel that their US Open has been special and that we have provided them with the tools to do their jobs.”
Not exactly a modest ambition but he has a tried and tested blueprint, though in practice only about 30 per cent translates across the different sites and the rest is tailor-made each year. So, his advice to his team is to come with a plan, be ready to respond and don’t be afraid to make changes.
When we were finishing our chat, I remarked to Pete that it must be a breeze for him to organise the family holidays. He sheepishly confessed that he was happy to leave that task to the organiser supreme in the family – his wife Sandy.