Originally created 07/12/01

Mayors will market region during LPGA tournament



Taking a page out of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's book, mayors throughout the region plan to use an upcoming golf tournament as an economic development tool.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young and McCormick, S.C., Mayor Miriam Patterson on Wednesday announced the creation of the Mayors' Grand Slam, a campaign to market the region to corporate executives invited to attend the LPGA Asahi Ryokuken Augusta International Championship scheduled for September.

The event is similar to the Georgia Chamber's annual Red Carpet Tour, which showcases the state's business climate to a group of corporate VIPs invited to attend the Masters Tournament.

Mayors' Grand Slam guests will tour Augusta on Friday, watch LPGA golf Saturday at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club in Edgefield County and conclude with a dinner presentation featuring an unnamed guest speaker, who will close with a pitch for the entire region.

Mayors from Aiken, Thomson, North Augusta, Lincolnton and Edgefield are also participating in the program. Each mayor is allowed to invite 10 business owners, executives or site-selection consultants of their choice.

They will promote their respective areas to their guests Friday night and Saturday morning. On Saturday night, the group will collectively showcase the entire region.

"Competition makes this region stronger," Mayor Young said. "... What happens in one city affects the others in the region."

Tournament promoters have said attendance could reach 70,000, but no one can accurately estimate turnout or the economic impact visiting players, sponsors, media and fans will have on the area, said Kathy Milthorpe, LPGA senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Unlike the Masters Tournament, LPGA tournament fans don't typically stay the night.

"You will have exceptions, though," she said.

Ms. Milthorpe said she expects the tournament will do well because of Augusta's reputation in the golfing community.

"It's not like going to other areas where they're not familiar with golf," she said. "It helps that Augusta is so closely associated with golf."

Local event organizers are keeping their hopes up, but they really aren't sure what to expect from the inaugural event.

"The tournament will stimulate the economy, but just how much is still ambiguous," said Tammy Stout, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council. "Everyone wants to compare it to the Masters, but that's just not fair. It's a totally different set of circumstances."

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or jbanks15@hotmail.com.