USGA Women's Open starting today in Kohler

Posted on Jul 2, 2012 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
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Kohler, Wisconsin, is not typically in the national spotlight. Known largely for its namesake, Kohler Co., the village typically only receives as much attention as anyone would pay to a multi-storied show room of toilets, showers, and other plumbing fixtures. Starting today, however, the area will be flooded with thousands of sports enthusiasts, news reporters, and business people. After all, the golfers are coming.

Hosting a USGA event is a big deal, to say the least. Although the greens will be closed to the public June 29 through July 10, for the 67th Women’s Open the total effect is estimated to be enormous, somewhere around an additional $76 million dollars in the economy. The impact on local business has been positive, according to Betsy Alles, executive director for the Sheboygan County Chamber. “All of the Kohler events, in addition to other kinds of events, are really having an impact on tourism here,” Alles said. “More people are staying here, which is a very good thing. The marketing that we’re doing is having a significant impact, and I honestly believe that from the inside out this area is experiencing a great deal of pride.”

Golf may be a spectator sport, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the gallery is just standing around watching. Businesses from across the state gather to connect with each other, an important aspect of sharing ideas and forming partnerships.  “We do networking events all the time, generally with our own members,” Alles stated. “We do what we can to supply information – we try to get event information to all the hotels for their guests. Businesses definitely use the games for networking.”

Tickets are still available for businesses and regular spectators alike. The USGA is selling seats online for every day of the event, which officially closes July 8.

And for Kohler and Sheboygan County, the lull felt in August will be short lived. Businesses are already thinking ahead to the PGA Championships being hosted on the area’s greens in 2015, and the Ryder Cup coming in 2020. “The adventure continues,” Alles said. “These certainly impact the business in the region. When you bring these people, along with national and international media to the area, what you’re going to see are businessmen and women who look at this and think maybe they’d like to open up here too.”

“We really are making a name for ourselves in a very big and important way,” Alles continued. “We have assets, all of these things attract people to come and visit and see and experience. Even more importantly, it brings out the people who live here and gets them excited again. I’ve always been a believer that things have happened from the inside out, and when the joy and vitality of our community get out, there’s nothing like word of mouth.”

 — Laurel McKenzie