Sunday, July 14, 2024

NC trend: The Presidents Cup plans to score big economic wins for the state

Pledges by Toyota, VinFast and other Asian-owned companies to invest billions of dollars in North Carolina weren’t ignited by the Presidents Cup golf tournament scheduled for Sept. 19-25 in Charlotte.

But the biennial competition that pits 12 top U.S. professionals against a dozen non-European international golfers, many of whom are expected to be Asians, will raise the global profile of North Carolina significantly, say Johnny and Johno Harris, the father-and-son team leading the organizing effort. Indeed, they compare the opportunity to an Olympic Games. 

“The Presidents Cup has been held in New York City, Canada, South Africa and other locations. For it now to come to Charlotte is pretty exciting,” Johnny Harris says. “We will have 24 of the best players in the world show up to play and I think the potential is that 1 billion households could be watching.”

The veteran Charlotte developer leads the Quail Hollow Club in south Charlotte that is hosting the event. PGA Tour executives say that this year’s event will smash records for corporate and general ticket sales and sponsorships with 40,000 people expected to attend daily. It has been held 13 times since 1994.

Quail Hollow hosted the 2017 PGA Championship, one of men’s golf’s four annual major tournaments. But the Presidents Cup will be more impactful because of its international nature.

Johnny Harris says a significant economic impact is inevitable because of the expected attendance of many key corporate decision makers. They will learn about expansion opportunities in addition to enjoying the competition.

“I’m not very good at being obtuse. There will be a lot of prospects here,” he says.

The PGA Tour, which owns the Presidents Cup, hadn’t disclosed the sponsorship list at press time. But the cup’s key corporate partners are New York-based Citigroup, Teaneck, N.J.-based tech services group Cognizant, Swiss watchmaker Rolex and South Korean automaker Genesis, which is owned by Hyundai.

Citi’s involvement is ironic, given that Quail Hollow has long hosted the PGA Tour’s annual Wells Fargo Championship, while Bank of America is based in Charlotte. The three companies, along with JPMorgan Chase, are the four megabanks that dominate U.S. banking.

The Presidents Cup will occur amid the biggest shake-up in pro golf in decades with Saudi Arabian interests luring away some of the sport’s most famous players by offering record guaranteed contracts. Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and other famous golfers signed on with the new LIV Golf tour and won’t be at Quail Hollow. 

Johnny Harris declined to comment on LIV Golf. His son notes that the Presidents Cup “honors the true meaning of golf because it brings the best players together to have a competition.” There is no prize money with competitors showing up because they want to represent their nation. Any profit goes to philanthropies and programs to advance golf. 

The sport is about more than business for the Harris family. Johnny Harris’ father opened Quail Hollow on family land in 1961 after encouragement from Arnold Palmer. Johno Harris played on the UNC Chapel Hill golf team, while his father has been an active member at Augusta National, which hosts the Masters, and helped promote the sports’ expansion in Asia.

“Our collaboration with the city, county and state on the Presidents Cup is enabling us to truly take this to the next level in how we showcase Charlotte and North Carolina,” Johnny Harris says.

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