Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Kroger Senior Classic adds fan-friendly features

By Michael Perry mperry@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MAINEVILLE — Senior PGA Tour officials understand that, like all sports and entertainment attractions, they are competing for the interest and dollars of fans. That's the main reason tour events, including the Kroger Senior Classic, are trying out a slew of new initiatives this year in hopes of connecting better with audiences in person and on television.

        The Kroger tournament, which takes place Sept.6-8, has moved to the Arnold Palmer-designed TPC at River's Bend course from the Golf Center at Kings Island.

  At Kroger stores or by calling the tournament office at (513) 932-6809 or 1-800-883-6538.
        Here's what else is new:

        • The ropes will be dropped and fans will be able to go on the fairways after tee shots to follow the final group for the last two holes Sunday. The goal is to allow the crowd to get the perspective of the competitors and be in a position previously prohibited. Fans will be 20 to 30 yards behind the players.

        • Heroes Day: Active members of the military, law enforcement and firefighters based in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton areas will be admitted free Sept.6. In addition, a firefighter, police officer and military member will be selected to walk with a threesome for 18 holes and be introduced at the first tee.

        • Skyline Chili is sponsoring a “Be A Big Cheese For A Day” contest. The winner will receive a new golf bag, a set of clubs and have a 30-minute lesson and lunch with pro Bob Duval. Entry forms are available on the krogerclassic.com web site.

        • Time Warner Cable is sponsoring a contest that will name 10 winners who will carry the standards inside the ropes for 18 holes Sept.6. Entry forms are available at krogerclassic.com.

        • Honorary observer: Six companies sponsoring the event will be able to choose two people per day who will be permitted inside the ropes for the 18 holes. They may choose employees, clients, customers or contest winners.

        • Caddy for a Day: Fans will be able to enter a contest (details to come later) to have a chance to caddy for nine holes during the U.S. Bank pro-am rounds Sept.4-5.

        • Interviews on the course: This is for TV viewers, who will hear thoughts from players immediately following shots or holes.

        • Instructional platform: Again, this is mostly for those watching on TV. After a specific shot, a professional will demonstrate the shot from the range at the River's Bend course. Fans in attendance will be able to watch.

        • Sponsoring companies are going to be able to take employees on behind-the-scenes tours.

        “It is about accessibility and it is about interaction,” said Michael McPhillips, director of tournament business affairs for the Senior PGA Tour. “We're doing things to show appreciation for fans. Our players appreciate the opportunity they have, and we want to make sure the fan has a great experience while they're here.”

        Monday was Media Preview Day for the Kroger event.

        Already committed to play are Palmer himself, Sunday's Senior Players Championship winner Stewart Ginn and U.S. Senior Open winner Don Pooley, who made his Senior PGA Tour debut in Cincinnati last year. Jim Thorpe, who won the Tradition, will be back to defend his Kroger title. Bruce Lietzke committed Monday morning.

        “Our competition staff feels this is probably going to be one of the more competitive back nines that we have all year,” McPhillips said. “So it is certainly going to be challenging. But our players, they want to compete at a high level.... They want to be on great golf courses, and this Arnold Palmer design certainly is one of them.”

        Local golf news and Tristate course guide

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