Ben Rubin’s office is just a few yards from the pristine greens and fairways of Valhalla Golf Club, but these days, you won’t find the Senior PGA Championship director outside working on his short game.
“People think we play a lot of golf. We don’t play much golf. It’s funny that people think that,” said Rubin, 32. “It’s event management. You’re operating an event with a lot of different details and a lot of different people and logistics to coordinate.”
Rubin, who oversee ticket sales, hospitality, marketing, advertising, promotions, public relations, operations and volunteer administration for the 72nd Senior PGA Championship, has spent the last two years working on the tournament, which will be held May 24-29 at Valhalla.
“It’s a field of 156 players. It’s the strongest field in senior golf,” Rubin said. “The Senior PGA leaderboard has more recognizable names than the PGA leaderboard.”
Top players set to play include Paul Azinger, Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia and Mark Brooks. Local favorites Kenny Perry, Fuzzy Zoeller, Russ Cochran and Ted Schulz also will tee it up.
But Rubin said the tournament is about more than great golf.
“It’s a social environment that everyone of all interests and ages can enjoy,” he said. “Public parking is just across the street, so it’s easy to get to. They can come out here for a day or for multiple days. It’s a beautiful environment. The golf could be secondary in someone’s interests.”
Presenting sponsor KitchenAid will have cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs throughout the week, and children 17 years and younger get in free with a ticketed adult (up to four children will be admitted per ticketed guest).
“We’re expecting between 60,000 to 80,000 people here for the whole week with the largest quantity of spectators over the weekend,” Rubin said.
Practice rounds are Tuesday and Wednesday and championship rounds will be played Thursday through Sunday. Single day tickets start at $40.
Rubin said the PGA continues to host major championships in Louisville because the city shows strong support for tournaments.
“This is an excellent market for golf tournaments. It’s not a huge metropolis where you get lost in the shadows of Major League Baseball or the NBA,” he said. “Here you’re the main event.
“The people here get it. They put the red carpet out to allow us to succeed the best we can because all that does is make Louisville and Kentucky look good.”
Rubin, who is a native of New Bedford, Mass., began working for the PGA in 2000 after interning with the organization and graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in sport management.
“My background when I first started with the PGA was in operations,” he said. “From 2006 to 2008 I worked on the Ryder Cup, and I’ll be the championship director for the 2014 PGA Championship” at Valhalla.
The 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, where Rubin served as director of operations, holds a special place in his memories.
“I was right there on the 17th hole when the United States won the Ryder Cup,” he said. “When you work so hard and put so much energy into an event like that and it all comes together and at the end the United States wins – there’s so much emotion. The excitement kept increasing and increasing, and winning was the climax of the entire experience.”
Rubin has worked on eight championships and has spent time stationed in Rochester, N.Y., and Oklahoma City in his time with the PGA
“It’s a job that matches my personality and my interests,” he said. “I have a lot of passion for it. I get up every day excited to come to work and eager to keep working on this championship.”
Even if that means not playing as much golf as he would like. (Rubin has a 10 handicap.)
“You get so busy with the event that it’s hard to play, but we do work in the golf business, so even our CEO has told us that he thinks it’s important that we’re out there playing golf,” he said.
And Valhalla is a tough course for golfers of all abilities.
“It will definitely pose a lot of challenges to the professionals,” he said. “It’s a great test of golf. It will definitely challenge the best senior golfers in the world to play their best to win this championship.”
Ironically, Valhalla’s designer, Jack Nicklaus, is also who Rubin considers to be the best golfer of all time.
“A professional golfer’s career is measured by major championships, and he’s won the most majors,” he said. “He is not only a great professional golfer, but he is a great ambassador of the game. He does a lot of great things to promote golf around the world.”
In addition to his 18 majors, Nicklaus won the Senior PGA Championship in 1991, hoisting the silver Alfred S. Bourne trophy, which has taken on a personality of his own recently.
Alfred has his own Twitter feed and has been making appearances all over Louisville.
“The greatest players in all of golf have held that trophy – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Tom Watson – they’re all defending champions. It’s fun to be able to take Alfred around and let people take pictures with him. It just adds another element to the championship.”
2011 Senior PGA Championship
Valhalla Golf Club
Tickets: $40-$80 (single day); $125-$250 (week-long package)
Category: The Profile
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Jacob Glassner, News Editor/Plate Spinner
Jacob usually has his eyes glued to a computer screen, editing stories and making sure the paper gets out the door each week. Multi-tasking is his modus operandi – similar to the plate spinners you’d see on the old “Ed Sullivan Show.” Turn ons: freshly-sharpened pencils. Turn offs: exclamation points!!!