Tim Mickleson has been the head coach at Arizona State University, successfully, for 10 years; and has been around college golf for 14 years. Tim talked about the 3 major aspects of coaching golf: coaching (30%), fundraising (30%), and recruiting (40%). I asked Tim that with the decreasing economy and lower budgets to go on recruiting trips, what kind of methods do you use to look at high school players and decide who you want for ASU? Rather than watching these kids on the course in person, you'll have to use all technology and statistics. This doesn't allow you to take a look at the golfers true passion for the game or his attitude while on the course. How do you think this impacts your overall decisions? Tim mentioned that he calls coaches and instructors, talks to academic counselor, and rule officials at tournaments. They get as much information about the kids as they can by calling and doing research along with watching videos and looking at statistics. Although, Tim has been burned by doing this; he told the story about how he had a kid that was played up by all of his resources but wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. He said, “I will never offer a scholarship to kids unless I’ve seen them golf with my own eyes.” Phil focuses on having a compatible team. He figures out if the kid’s personality will fit with him as a coach and with the team.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Toni Manzoni made a very big impact on me the day we met with him. This man could probably write a book with the amount of knowledge he holds. To begin our meeting he began with his personal background. Toni grew up in a tough neighborhood in Chicago. Here, violence surrounded him. Although he struggled, he never used this as an excuse. Today Toni Manzoni has been a member of the PGA since 1965 and assisted in the founding of Callaway. He had an equal partnership with 3 others. Once the blueprints for a club named “Big Burtha” came out Mr. Callaway ended up using it. Manzoni said, “I went from a poor boy to a rich boy.” Later, the college gave Toni land to build a course and an academy. Later, Toni got the chance to meet with the president of China about courses and business techniques.
I was really curious about Toni Manzoni’s teaching techniques and how he managed to coach several Champions. Although teaching techniques and knowledge is very important, Toni focuses on trying to teach life lessons. One thing that he said that influenced me is that, “you have a choice in life, you can be common or you can be special.” He thinks it is his responsibility to tell these kids the truth that, “nobody is going to have you a box of money, your parents are going to die, you’ll need to pay your bills, you’ll be all alone… What are you going to do? The wolf is at the door knocking, but you have to keep moving.” Toni also tries to teach commitment. A metaphor that stuck with me was that golfing (or life) is like fighting Mike Tyson, he knocks you down every day but you can’t quit because once you get a good hit you will feel on top of the world.
The Grand Finale of our Golfonomics adventure was volunteering on the Shotlink team at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Aside from that we had to leave the hotel at 5:30 AM, we all had a great time, and enjoyed the experience much more than yelling at people to get off their phones at Humana. Going into it, I was very anxious about being under qualified (or even completely incompetent), having only watched the instructional video and no actually touched a machine previously. I decided that I would be fine as long as I did not have to enter grid coordinates (not a strong point)… But of course, I ended up doing that anyway. Fortunately it proved not too difficult, and the next day I heard reports that “The PLU kids on 1 Fairway (Hollie and I) were really good!”
After an hour-long transit itinerary on board a car, shuttle bus, and golf cart and breakfast in the volunteer tent, we arrived at 1 Fairway to find it covered in frost. We were told that, due to a design flaw in the course, holes 1 and 10 are located such that the sun defrosts them last. For this reason, delayed starts are common. I immediately set off around the course with the coordinate chart locating the many landmarks and marked sprinkler heads I would later use to determine the balls’ location.
By the time play began, Hollie and I felt comfortable with the equipment and were able to score almost every ball without incident. The grid was tricky at times, particularly when the balls landed in the middle of the fairway and not near any markers, but our measurements were found to be accurate almost every time.
When our scoring duties were over, we had a very enjoyable day at the rest of the Open, watching Bubba Watson and Kyle Stanley of Gig Harbor tee of, and of course experiencing the legendary Hole 16.
In our travels, we visited two firms concerned with water. First was the Coachella Valley Water District, which provides water for the Palm Desert area, a then the Werecon company, which designs and builds watering systems designed to use as little water as possible. To my surprise, the officials from both CVWD and Werecon strongly stated that despite the negative attention golf courses receive for using large amounts of water, they are by far the most efficient consumers, and far more water is wasted by agriculture and households collectively.
Our hosts at CVWD were warm and delightful, and our lengthy meeting with them was interspersed with plenty of dry humor (no pun intended). Our discussion existed primarily in three realms: The physiological behavior of water and technologies employed to control it, the economic decisions governing the supply and demand of water, and the effort that the CVWD has made to educate Palm Desert residents towards water conservation.
Our hydrogeology buffs kicked off the meeting with questions about the condition of the Colorado River, Salton Sea, and groundwater. They admitted that the degrading condition of the Salton Sea is not high on their list of priorities, and said that there are many other areas where their funding could be more affectively used. We asked whether there was a possibility of damming the Colorado River for hydroelectric power, and they believed that the energy produced would be compensated for by the decreased water flow downstream.
We asked about whether courses want to change to become more environmentally friendly, and the answer aligned with the opinions of many other experts we’ve spoken with in that they have high economic incentives to do so, which far outstrip hedonic value. There is a policy in place that A, recycled water is the same price as potable water, and B, recycled water must be used if available. This has not altered the economic equation too much. They told us that the farmers have lobbied for cheaper water rates than golf courses (as it is in Arizona) using the argument that they’re doing something important by growing food, while golf courses are for recreation and therefore less important. The CDWD officials strongly believe that farmers and golf courses should face the same rate.
The CDWD told us that by far the least efficient users are households and landscapers. Households face a tiered rate of five prices, rewarding the most miserly users with a discount on the base rate, and charging higher users up to 250% of it. Each bill announces which of the five categories the household falls into, which are Excellent, Efficient, Inefficient, Excessive, and Wasteful. Apparently, some residents were none too happy about being called “Wasteful” (never mind the increased charge) and wrote scathing letters detailing just how insulted they were, but the program has for the most part been successful in encouraging “Efficient” water use.
Our focus then shifted to the education portion of the CDWD’s work. The Director of Education described the curriculum she teaches in the schools to try to get kids to lead the water conservation in their households, and about how the bills they send have educational material included. They have also started a “toilet replacement” campaign, in which they subsidize water saving toilets and show people how much water they can save by installing them. They replaced 80 toilets last year, and were very impressed with that number. One of my favorite stories from the trip was from this portion of the meeting, which was about how the Director of Education got a notice from the city that her lawn had gone brown.
We met with Joe Wantulok, the founder of Werecon, who also has years of experience managing a golf course. He stated three strong opinions on the situation Golf faces:
· Golf was overbuilt in the 80s
· 9/11 kicked off golf’s decline, which has continued since
· Golf’s best days are behind it
He said that when running a golf course, behind payroll (which many have slashed), Water is always the number two expense. Golf courses are rarely given any breaks on water price, and are charged using the same tiered system that are generally applied to all other commercial businesses, for a net result of paying far more per gallon than any of them. This generally gives them an incentive to conserve as much water as possible, even if the things they use it for are generally viewed as unnecessary. In contrast, Joe said that Agricultural firms, which are often subsidized and/or given discounts on water, wasting as much as if not more water is spent overwatering golf courses. Even without the enormous taxes on water in areas such as Monterey, it does seem that golf courses usually have something to be gained from using state of the art, miserly watering systems.
In addition to the price of water, Joe said that another driver towards water conservation is the quota that is imposed on courses in dry areas such as Phoenix. Violating the quota comes with steep fines, and the possibility for the managers to be personally charged for the offense, and as a result courses try very hard to stay within the limit. There is also a limit on how much turf a course can have, though TPC has skirted around this by maintaining two courses, one of which is gigantic and the other is small and desert-themed. I asked Joe if courses ever seriously consider intentionally violating the quota if the benefits outweigh the fines, and he confidently said that violations usually only occur accidentally. The possibility for a manager to be charged individually gives the course the possibility to say “Seeya! Have fun with your $80,000 fine!”
In addition to heavily regulated water, Phoenix area golf courses face an issue that courses in the Coachella valley do not (yet): extremely salty and alkaline water that leaves behind deposits and does not dissolve fertilizer well, requiring even more water to achieve the desired effect. Werecon produces several devices to counteract this. Some treat the water to neutralize the PH and break down salt with acid, while others apply fertilizer directly to the roots of the grass.
Joe noted that while golf courses are closing left and right in the US, they are expanding in Asia. He said that this has created a lot of business for Werecon, and the strengthening of other currencies such as the Chinese Yen against the dollar is helping.
A few of us were curious as to how long it usually takes a customer to break even on their investment in a Werecon system. We asked Joe, and he said that although they do not have any sort of guarantee program, it often does not take long. He said there is a lot of variation in how much money it saves, and that depends mostly on the application and the way it is maintained after installation. Some customers use them entirely to prevent calcium buildup, and while this might not conserve any water, it can save thousands of dollars on maintenance. He said it generally takes about a month after the installation of an acid or fertilizer injection system to see noticeable results in green quality.
One final issue we discussed was that, unlike in the Coachella Valley, recycled water has been a major challenge in the phoenix area. Joe told us about some far-off neighborhoods and even some golfing communities that attempt to reclaim some of their sewage, and that many of them produce a minimal amount of such water and then quickly run out and have to switch back to potable sources. He said that the supply and demand never line up timewise, and that in the summer, when additional water is needed the most, many of the houses that usually provide it are empty.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Our afternoon visit to the Hot Stix club fitting company left me with more questions and answers. Like Ping, Hot Stix does custom assembly and fitting of clubs, but instead of manufacturing their own components, they use Callaway products. In addition to the retail price of the clubs being purchased, Hotstix charges additionally for customization, and their fitting service which runs $800-$5000 for a complete set. By contrast, Ping includes fitting and customization.
We were first shown the state of the art equipment used test and fit drivers. Hot Stix owns a swing machine that can consistently reproduce a golfer’s technique, and can be used to tune clubs specifically to them. Also present was a virtual driving range with the capability of saving and replaying many drives for comparison. The salespeople at Hot Stix seemed very knowledgeable in golf technique, though most of the discussion was outside the scope of my knowledge. After a demonstration of the virtual driving range, we moved to the “Putting Studio,” where Kyle’s putting prowess was recorded by six cameras. Watching the videos taken from the different angles helped the experts suggest a perfect new putter for him. The virtual driving range and Putting Studio are intended for customers on a budget: For a greater fee, Hot Stix will perform a fitting out on a course. Someone asked whether their clientele consisted mostly of pros or amateurs, and the response went something like “actually, many of them are amateurs.” This surprised me only in that they did not say “it is all amateurs,” because it seems to me that most professional golfers would know how to fit clubs better than the salespeople at Hot Stix.
Our discussion on how Hot Stix markets was very interesting. They do not take part in any paid advertisement and are almost nonexistent in social media, but rely entirely on word of mouth and field demonstrations to attract customers. They say that customers fly to their three shops from all over the country, and that when they tried to open a fourth shop, it did little to improve business and was quickly closed. I asked what, if anything, they were doing to target the younger demographic, and as I had guessed they replied that most of their customers were older and wealthier. I then asked what changes, if any, they are making in response to the current market conditions, namely the aging of the audience. Their reply was that this will mostly affect the other companies, and won't hurt them too much.
I haven’t seen a sunrise since getting up early to go fishing with my dad in middle school. For our last event of Econ 387, we had the opportunity to work the ShotLink towers at the Phoenix Open, and lucky for me we had to wake up at 5!
The experience turned out to be fantastic. ShotLink lasers are what have allowed the enormous influx of data that has paved the way for some of the economic work in golf. Alek, Shannon and I were together at the 2nd green. Our job was to identify each player, which ball they had hit, and shoot it with the laser to allow the laser to calculate distance information. Alek took the role of gridding the ball placement and was our main headset captain. Shannon was the computer specialist and ensured that we were providing the correct data for the right player. I got to work the laser itself and shoot each ball that landed on the green, and each put the player took. This kept all of us busy, and allowed us to see many different golfers as they came through the second hole. This was certainly an appropriate and fun way to end the trip. We were able to work with the technology that has created so much data, and be in another (very different with more people) PGA tour event environment.
This was a great trip but I’m excited to head back for PLU!
For the second day in a row we had the opportunity to have two meetings. In the morning we met with Tim Mickelson, head coach of the men’s Arizona State University golf team. Coach Mickelson gave us a much closer look at collegiate golf – something we had not examined at all to this point. One of the fascinating aspects of this discussion with his coaching philosophies, and recruiting practices. As a sports psychology minor, and avid sports fan, I loved the close look at Division I coaching. Mickelson identified the three components of a college golf coach to be coaching, fundraising, and recruiting. At ASU, recruiting takes 40% of his efforts, while previous at the University of San Diego, it took 20%.
We were able to dive into the details of recruiting – including his techniques, how he finds players, and limitations set by the NCAA. The NCAA limits men’s golf to 4.5 athletic scholarships, but allows 6 to women. This is due to Title IX, and is an effort by schools to make up for a sport such as football that only offers scholarships to males, and offers many of them. As with many college sports, theire are online ranking systems for junior and high school players that post scores and skills of players. Additionally players email Coach Mickelson daily with interest in being recruited, or playing at ASU. A unique factor of golf recruiting is that it takes so much time. There is no contacting a player before their junior year of high school, and the limitations are very strict. To show a player that the university is interested, coaches must travel to watch them play, and do this consistently. Coaches who do not watch the kids play will lose talented players due to the kids thinking a coach is no longer interested. The golf recruiting calendar only prevents recruiting 8 days a year, which means that there is plenty of time throughout the year to go see kids play. However this must be done consistently as not to lose a players interest.
A unique feature ASU offers is their high quality on campus golf course. This is a major recruiting tool, and helps greatly with practice for the players. After our meeting, Coach Mickelson took us on a tour of the golf teams clubhouse and practice facility. I do not understand why my parents didn’t stick a golf club in my hand when I was 3.
Our next stop of the day and final speaker of our trip was with Hot Links golf. They are a boutique, very high end golf club customizer. They differ greatly from Ping in that they do not make golf clubs. Rather, they do high-tech testing, and tweak a club to the exactly perfect specifications of a player. One of their interesting selling points was that a custom fit will help everyone, but the higher the handicap, the more a custom fit will help. I would need to see this evidence personally – I would categorize my swing as too horrid and inconsistent to warrant any customized club. My question for Hot Links came from my tennis background: if a player receives a customized club, but the custom fit is for a terrible swing, and then a player practices and greatly improves their skill level, do they need to get re-fit for clubs? The answer was essentially yes, but it is very common for Hot Links to build that into the club. If they know a player will be practicing and taking lessons, they contact his/her coach and tailor the clubs for a swing that will ideally improve.
Tomorrow we volunteer at 5AM for the Phoenix Open and then it is back to WA!!