Robby Wallace’s inspiration for a new business came to him as he was watching a golf tournament on television.
The avid golfer was home with his wife, Jessica, and newborn twins earlier this summer. As the tournament played out, Robby said he thought, “We can do that. We can help make golf tournaments run smoothly and be fun and, when the goal is fundraising, profitable.”
The idea has become a reality now with the birth of To the Tee, a golf tournament management service that he and Jessica are running. This weekend he will manage Going Bananas for Anna, a fundraising tournament for the family of a young girl suffering from leukemia.
Going Bananas for Anna tees off on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Royal Oaks Golf Club for 10-year-old Anna Martin. “She is a little girl in Hardin Valley with a rare form of leukemia, and she needs a bone marrow transplant,” Robby Wallace said. “Her parents have to take time off to go to Vanderbilt to get her treatment, so we’re doing something to help them.”
To the Tee focuses on golf tournaments that are played in East Tennessee. “We work with organizations, companies and non-profit groups,” he said. “There is not a central support mechanism for golf tournaments in this area, so we’re trying to make that happen.”
Wallace said the service will do as much or as little as the client wants. They can provide insurance, marketing and merchandising. “We can provide anything they need for a tournament. We’re a one-stop shop,’ he said. “We will assist with setup, work with organizations to arrange and manage the tournament, take them through it step-by-step if needed or just provide parts if they don’t.”
Robby Wallace didn’t want to give specific prices for the services his new company offers, saying that the perk of being an independently-owned business is being able to work closely with individual customers. “I can charge an hourly rate, a ‘whole package’ rate or a percentage,” Wallace said, “depending on what works best for the customer. It depends on what the customer wants. Every situation will be a little different.”
The idea came from his love of golfing. “This business was born out of a passion for the game and a love of playing in tournaments,” he said.
Wallace, who works in pharmacy benefits with CVS, has played golf for 15 years and has played in 30 to 40 tournaments. “I want to see golf grow in this area. It is already very popular. You’ve got four to six local courses within a few miles of each other that everyone can drive to and a lot of local golf tournaments take place each year.”
Wallace said so many folks who organize tournaments focus on doing their tournaments the way they’ve always done them. “They don’t put much thought into it, but if you changed a few things up, you can raise your fundraising amount,” he said.
Wallace said they work with each client to determine their individual needs. “We’re going to sit down and look at the diagnostics of what they’ve done in past and what we can do to increase profits and revenue,” he said.
Their range of services can go from completely managing all aspects of the golf tournament to just getting signage or T-shirts for the event.
Wallace said they’re clients aren’t just non-profit organizations. They also work with corporations and clubs. Anybody who hosts an annual golf tournament could be a potential customer, he said.
Planning a successful tournament takes time. “You need to look six to nine months ahead to start the planning process. You need a good group of volunteers to obtain sponsorships, and you need to go to different courses to negotiate the best rates,” he said.
Robby Wallace said switching formats can be a good strategic move. Door prizes are also an important part of a tournament. “Prizes can even include a million dollars or a car for a hole-in-one,” he said. “A lot of folks think that’s too risky, but it is a minimal cost with insurance against someone winning that million dollars or that new car.”
“To the Tee” can help with insurance, signage for sponsors, banners for title sponsors and any merchandising, goodie bags or logo material created especially for a tournament. He said tournament organizers who use To the Tee are usually looking for ways to increase revenue.
“People do the same old thing year after year and wonder why it gets harder each year or the revenue decreases. Golf tournaments are a great way for non-profits to raise money if it is done correctly,” he said.
There’s a need, said Wallace, to change things up and keep tournaments new and fresh. “One aspect we’re trying to add to our company is to offer skills workshops during the tournament,” said Wallace. “We can reach out to local United States Golf Association members or local golf pros.”
Wallace has lived in Blount County since 1991 when he moved here with his parents from upper East Tennessee. He graduated from William Blount High School in 1998 and from Tusculum College in 2006.
Jessica, who has worked with United Way until this summer, thought her husband was on to a good idea. “She was all about it,” said Wallace. “She loved the idea and jumped right on board and said, ‘Let’s go.’ We jumped in feet first. We’re excited.”
To contact the Wallaces about To the Tee, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.