By Sara Woelfel
On a picturesque Tuesday evening in May, 13 Stritch students
stood atop a hillside overlooking a panoramic view of the first hole at one of
the country’s premiere public golf courses. Outfitted in professional attire,
the group enjoyed a brief tour and much-needed fresh air prior to heading
inside the Erin Hills Golf Course clubhouse to present their proposed marketing
plans to General Manager Andy Bush and Director of Golf and Marketing Rich
As host to the 2017 U.S. Open, one of four annual tournaments
in the PGA tour, Erin Hills is poised to join an elite tier of golf courses.
The management agreed to hear 30-minute presentations from Stritch
undergraduate sport management majors, who worked in teams of three or four to
create comprehensive plans focused on a four-year marketing strategy leading up
to the tournament.
“These students are working with a multi-million dollar
sport property that’s going to hold the annual largest golf event in the world
in 2017,” Stritch instructor Dan Underberg said. “Most agencies would kill for
the opportunity to present something for a half an hour in terms of how they
should approach their marketing.”
Two years ago, Underberg reached out to Tock and invited him
to speak to a Sport Facilities class. The two men kept in touch, and
reconnected recently at a time when Tock sought recommendations for a marketing
intern and Underberg approached Tock with an idea for this final project for
his Sport Marketing class.
“It’s just been one of those wonderful kind of symbiotic
things,” Underberg said. “It just happened to work out. And Rich has been
From these discussions, Tock recruited intern James Wold,
who is pursuing his master’s in sport management degree from Stritch and will
continue to work this summer with Tock on various marketing projects. And
Underberg found a way for his students to apply their lessons in marketing to
an actual venue in preparation for a major international event.
“So that’s how this whole thing started: Dan calling and
asking me to speak,” said Tock, noting that Stritch is the only school working
with the golf course. “One thing led to another, which is the way the world
works, so it’s been good. Of course, Stritch has a great name, too.”
Tock visited campus twice during the semester to speak with
the Sport Marketing students, introducing the golf course, describing the
event, and providing guidance as they developed their marketing plans. The
groups brainstormed and researched target audiences, demographics, media
outlets, sponsorship opportunities, promotional ideas, and logistical issues to
create comprehensive plans intended to promote both the golf course and the
2017 U.S. Open. Four teams competed against each other to produce the best
Winning team Eric Harrer, Billy Vranek, and Kevin Worm won
narrowly over another team, edging out the competition with a plan focused on
sponsorships, a statewide tour of a traveling U.S. Open-themed event, a
partnership with the Milwaukee Brewers, and a clever tagline. The Erin Hills
management liked that some of their ideas could be implemented right away.
“Both Rich and Andy looked interested in everything we were
saying, and wrote a lot of notes during all the presentations,” Harrer said.
“We’ve taken those presentations and we’ve pulled out a
bunch of ideas that we thought were worth discussing, which we will,” Tock
said. “Some of the stuff we already do; some of the things we’ll never do since
they’re a little more out of the box than we wanted.”
Tock felt grateful for the work of the students and said
their plans validated many ideas and plans already in discussion by the Erin
Hills’ management. According to Tock, some of the stand-out ideas included:
adding a search bar to the website, sponsorship leads, the traveling U.S. Open
event, a father-son event focused on Father’s Day, inclusion in the 2015 Tiger
Woods Xbox game and golf simulator software, marketing at downtown Milwaukee
restaurants, and the taglines.
Underberg said some of the presentations and projects reflected
master’s-level work. In addition to gaining a better understanding of marketing
concepts, Underberg hopes students also walk away with a better perspective of
what is expected in the professional world.
“I think that really hit home about how hard they need to
prepare and how important the presentation is and how you need to be confident
in what you are doing,” Underberg said.
Harrer definitely learned some lessons.
is very time consuming to research and put together a presentation for a company,”
said Harrer, who hopes to pursue a career in marketing and advertising. “It is
also very nerve wracking to present in front of a multimillion-dollar company.”
who also hopes to work in marketing, found it difficult not to get too carried
away with the size and scope of their plan.
“We had a lot of big ideas, but had to bring it down to a
level where we could present it and make it orderly and make it look good,”
Worm said. “It was hard because some of our ideas were just so huge we had to
really rein it in and focus.”
Even though he admits he is not a fan of golf, Worm said he
will be tuned into news of the 2017 U.S. Open in the next several years and
keep his eye trained on the ways Erin Hills promotes itself and the event.
This is the first time the Sport Marketing class partnered
with an organization on a final project like this. Underberg is hopeful the
University can create more opportunities for future students.
“I just hope we can continue to develop more relationships
like this for all of our students in these classes and allow them to really
taste what it’s like to work with and work for a multimillion dollar
organization,” Underberg said. “It adds to their experience, their growth, and
adds to our program and its reputation.”
Tock said he looks forward to meeting with Underberg again
soon to discuss whether to continue working together for future classes.
“Yes, we benefited from this but the main thing is I hope
the students benefited from this and the discussions that we had,” Tock said.