Webber has been doing just that over the last seven months. He is the tournament director for the Greater Gwinnett Championship golf tournament, and he is anxiously awaiting the beginning of the new Champions Tour event at TPC Sugarloaf, April 15-21.
“I’ve always wanted to run a professional golf tournament,” Webber said. “This way I have found a way to combine my love of sports with what I know.”
What Webber knows is just about everything that goes on behind the scenes at a golf tournament. The 40-year old east Cobb resident worked at nearly every level of operation when the PGA Tour’s AT&T Classic was at Sugarloaf, and before that at the Atlanta Country Club in Marietta. He started as an intern in 1996, worked his way up to operations coordinator, and then into marketing operations. For the last six years he was the tournament’s director of marketing. Because Webber had all the contacts, and knew how to build the necessary relationships, he was a natural choice to get the new tournament up and running.
“In late August early September I got a call from Stan Hall, the executive director of the Gwinnett Sports Commission,” Webber said. “He told me he was in talks with the Champions Tour and wanted to know if I would be willing to run the new event.
“When I got the call we had 212 days to prepare. We had no vendors, no employees, anything. We just finalized our main vendors and we need 700 volunteers. We just launched our volunteer site (a few weeks ago).”
One of the main reasons Webber was given such a short time to get the tournament up to speed was because of the premier spot on the calendar.
When Outback Steakhouse pulled out of the main sponsorship of the Tampa event, the April week became available and Webber said the Champions Tour began pushing for this tournament.
The week before the Greater Gwinnett Championship is the Masters. The week after is the Champions Tour event in Savannah. It just proved to be a natural fit.
“We are thrilled by the date,” Webber said. “Everyone knows golf starts at Augusta. The players can come up here after and then drive to Savannah. The players are thrilled to come to Atlanta.”
Professionals already committed to play are Marietta’s Larry Nelson and Joe Inman along with major champions Mark Calcavecchia, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin, Scott Simpson, Jeff Sluman, Craig Stadler, Hal Sutton and former Wheeler golfer Bob Tway.
Two big names that have not yet committed, but are featured prominently in the tournament brochures and literature are Fred Couples and Tom Watson. Both players have significant ties or relationship with some of the secondary sponsors, and are being encouraged to play. If Couples and Watson commit, the inaugural field for the GGC would be able to challenge, and surpass, many regular tour events for pure star power.
“The Champions Tour expects this event to become one of the best on Tour,” Webber said.
Webber also said one of the key things he is trying to do for the event is to not make it a recreation of the AT&T Classic.
“It’s something new,” he said. “There are going to be new faces, a new look and a bigger feel.”
He also said the fans will have a better opportunity to get up close to the players.
“There is more interaction,” Webber said. “The players get it. They are more willing to spend the time talking with fans. They’ve made it, but they also understand the business side of the tournament.”
From the golf standpoint, Webber said the golf course will likely be set up nearly the same as when the PGA event was at Sugarloaf, with only “a couple of hundred yards difference.”
As the tournament gets nearer, Webber said he is starting to get a little nervous, because he knows, regardless of outcome; he will be the one that gets the majority of the credit or blame.
He also knows that this is likely the only time he will be the tournament’s director. Webber stepped away from his business – Logoman Marketing Group – an organization that creates promotional and corporate gifts like golf accessories, coffee mugs, pens, cups and umbrellas with corporate logos, to run the GGC. And when the tournament is over, he will return to his position as vice president.
However, that does not mean he will be done with the tournament all together. He said one of the big advantages to getting involved with it in the first place was getting back in touch and rebuilding the relationships he had when he worked with the AT&T Classic. Because of that he said he expects to stay involved in some capacity long term, but now, Webber knows he has hit crunch time for tournament preparations and he is anxious for the event to finally arrive.
“It’s all about seeing the plan in place,” he said. “It’s the validation of putting (the tournament) on and getting the gratification when it happens.”