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NORTON — Nervous tournament staffers kept checking the time, discreetly reminding their man of a dwindling deadline — 20 minutes, then 15, then 10, finally 5 — and wondering how they’d ever get Seth Waugh to the first tee at TPC Boston, where Tiger Woods would be waiting.
A pro-am pairing with Woods is still held in high regard, and certainly was on Aug. 28, 2003, the day before the first round of the very first Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods was the top-ranked player in the world then, golf’s biggest star. Waugh was the CEO of the new tournament’s title sponsor, and as his 6:50 a.m. pro-am time approached, he was meeting with two important clients inside the clubhouse at TPC Boston.
By the time Waugh finally reached the tee, Woods and the others in the group were in the middle of the first fairway. So Waugh teed his ball up, launched it toward his playing partners, and raced to catch up. Handshakes were exchanged in the fairway, a genuine apology likely offered. And off they went.
“If you really didn’t understand what happened you’d think he was late for his tee time,” said Jay Monahan, back then the tournament director for the Deutsche Bank Championship, and now the senior vice president of business development for the PGA Tour. “That’s not the way I look at it. He had meetings that I’m sure were very productive for the business. I think it’s a testament to him that when he’s with his most important customers, there’s nothing else that matters, and he has the wherewithal to explain that to Tiger and to make that be a positive.
“Seth always has an understanding of what’s important. If you watch him walk around the venue, from the security guards at the front desk to the people in the equipment trailers to the guys cleaning up trash on the golf course, he inspires everybody and makes them feel good about the impact they’re having on the tournament.”
It’s tough to pick who the bigger figure is in the history of the Deutsche Bank Championship, which will be played for the 10th time starting on Friday. Is it Woods, who has played here seven times (missing two to injury), won once, and generated millions of dollars for his foundation through his charitable partnership with the tournament? Or is it Waugh, the person most responsible for bringing the Deutsche Bank Championship here and keeping it here? The bank, and the PGA Tour, announced a four-year sponsorship extension Wednesday night, keeping the sponsorship agreement in place at least through 2016.
Actually, it’s probably an easy decision.
It took the right title sponsor, the right course, and the right date on the PGA Tour calendar to build the tournament into what it’s become: an $8 million event held over Labor Day weekend that pumps some $50 million into the local economy every year and helps dozens of area charities. It’s the second of four playoff events on tour, guaranteed to always have an elite, 100-player field. This year the top 13 players in the world, according to the rankings, are playing.
All of it — the field, the purse, the charities — are a byproduct of what Waugh envisioned more than a decade ago, when he hatched this tournament sponsorship idea as an attempt to improve the US brand of the German-based bank, which he joined in 2000. Waugh quickly settled on golf as the platform.
“Because of all the reasons we love it: the ethics involved, the personalities, the philosophies, and the demographics,” Waugh said. “So we focused on golf, and began talking about possibilities. We wanted to find a town that made sense for us, where our clients were, a place that would appreciate the game, a place that we could easily get to from both Europe and New York. I also didn’t want to rebrand another event. We wanted to do something new.”
San Francisco was considered, as was Bethpage Black on Long Island, but Waugh thought the Boston market made the most sense.
“We wanted very much to make it a part of the Boston sports scene,” he said. “Boston embraced us, they wanted it, they wanted us to be committed. I love walking around the tournament and seeing three generations together. Boston is a family town, it’s a family weekend. We thought, let’s play that up, let’s make it an advantage for us.”
About to celebrate 10 tournaments, it’s hard to argue the tournament’s success, or its imprint on the local sports scene.
“He wants this whole place to be family,” said Eric Baldwin, the championship director who has worked with Waugh since the tournament’s inception. “He didn’t want to just title sponsor another PGA Tour event. He wanted to create an experience, and he wanted to get everyone together to be family. From our vendors, from our spectators, from our players, he wanted to welcome everyone in. He always asks us, ‘How is the happy factor?’ If you create a good happy factor, everything will work out.”Continued...