MARANA, Ariz. — Kevin Na had just finished his opening round Friday at LIV Golf Tucson and was headed back to the clubhouse at The Gallery Golf Club when he passed Kelli Bowers, the director of operations for Na’s team.
“Are we doing pizza tonight or not?” Na, the Iron Heads captain, asked Bowers.
“I would love to do pizza tonight,” Bowers said.
With LIV Golf’s business model of team play ramping up in Year 2, more is being put on the shoulders of the team captains, which means finding people like Bowers to handle not just team travel, social media and apparel, among other things, but even a pizza party to keep the team loose and help players wind down from the first day of a tournament.
LIV Golf has tightened the purse strings in its second year, part of that pulling back when it comes to team operations. No longer does the league fully finance the players’ travel, accommodations and other operational expenses. The majority of the 12 teams have registered as an LLC, consistent with the practices of any professional sports team, and now are franchises within a league and responsible for all expenses.
That means the captains are in a sense the owner of that franchise, at least until a business or individual steps in to purchase that team, which is part of the long-term model. Each of those captains has appointed a general manager, many choosing their agents.
“You have to have a lot of support from a lot of different areas,” said Phil Mickelson, captain of the HyFlyers. “You can’t be your best without help from others, and so you have to humble yourself and ask for help.
“We tried to have everybody associated with the HyFlyers from our fitness, our physical therapy, our coaching, our caddies, our family support systems, wives, as well as the executives who are running the team and doing all the day-to-day stuff.”
For Na, that support comes from his agent/general manager, Jens Beck of ProSport Management, who has started building a team of business leaders like Bowers.
“(The players) expect us to take everything off the golf course so they can play golf stress-free,” said Bowers, whose background is in golf as a four-year player at the University of Washington, a year on the Symetra Tour (now the Epson Tour) and seven years as the assistant women’s coach at Grand Canyon University.
That includes booking travel for players, their families, coaches and physiotherapists. Securing accommodations, some of which are deals…
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