This month I interviewed Kathy Zornes, the event organizer of the annual Peter A. Zornes Memorial Golf Tournament, and mother of the late Peter Zornes, to get her take on being the organizer of a successful memorial golf event. Peter was a Neuroscience graduate at Washington State University and beginning a research position with a newly formed Bio-tech firm when he was tragically murdered. Since this time, his family has developed a memorial scholarship at Washington State University in neuroscience in his memory, as well an annual golf tournament to help fund the scholarship. Kathy and I have cultivated a friendship during planning for her 8th annual tournament using the Golf Digest Planner and Tournament Shop, and she was kind enough to share her story with me. After hearing about her journey, I decided she would be the perfect candidate for this year’s tournament highlights. Please enjoy our interview below!
How did you decide to do a golf tournament fundraiser?
I needed to generate a set amount of money to get my scholarship to a point where it was permanent and sustaining. I needed to do something that would bring in a significant amount of money in a relatively short amount of time. We needed a minimum of $25,000 and we had a five-year period to reach that goal. Since we had started the scholarship with $250, we had a long ways to go! So that was the impetus to get a lot of people together, and I couldn’t think of another fundraiser that would be fun. And in our small community we live, we have a lot of school projects and other causes, but we don’t have a lot of population to support these causes. We don’t have a lot of businesses; we don’t have a lot of private funding resources. So this way I could give the people and businesses something too, instead of just asking them to “buy something.” I knew that my son, as he got older, had said to me that he loved golf, and he said, “You know Mom, I think the thing is you can play golf no matter what age you are.” I thought that was really true, and there are people who will come out and golf for a day, even if they don’t golf all season long.
Did you have any experience with golf or tournament planning?
I didn’t know anything when I started about planning a golf tournament. I knew how to plan some events, but I’m not a golfer. My husband had golfed a little bit, my son had golfed some, but nobody in this house really knew how to plan a golf tournament. So when we started out, I talked to the woman who was involved in the university outreach for our scholarship and she said, “I have a friend who has done this, why don’t I set up a meeting?” So I met with the friend and I got a lot of good tips. She encouraged me tremendously. She said, “You know a lot of people!” And I realized we did. So the first year I had 48 golfers, and the second year I had 80. And it’s a nine-hole course. I didn’t plan to have that second year, but by the time the golfers came– and before we even started– they were saying, “Well, Kathy, do you have the next one scheduled?” And I realized they thought it would be an annual thing. We wanted to do something that would make his life matter, so we wanted to set up a scholarship. And then, to ensure that we had enough money to have the scholarship endowed, we decided to plan a golf tournament, and then before we knew it…everyone was saying “next year!”
How did you find us at Golf Digest Planner?
This is a funny story: the night before our first tournament, my daughter found the Golf Digest Planner website. I had spent the year reinventing the wheel! After considering the advice that your representative gave me, I realized that I had done so much of what was on the planner myself, but it sure would have been easier if I had found you earlier! Except your planner says to have committees and I still don’t! It’s my husband, my daughter and I and whatever relationships we established. I’ve tried to form committees and have meetings, but it hasn’t really worked here. So it’s mainly just me, with my husband and daughter helping as much they can.
I think that the Golf Digest Planner is just fantastic. And it does help. The reminders keep you on track and on task; keeping you reminded of what you need to do. And the fact that I can put it out there and people can see it and sign up whenever they want to, or if I don’t have a poster with me I can say, “Hey– go to the website.” I love that. I didn’t upgrade this year to the more elaborate page-levels; I wanted to spend our financial resources on a Tournament Package instead. But I love that just using that one website, you can pick the level of how much you want on your website.
And the eBooks! I’ve got them downloaded, and just about every year I download them and sit and pour over them. I find so often, they spark just one more idea of something to try.
Why did you decide to buy a tournament package from Golf Digest Tournament Shop?
This is the first year I have bought an entire package – I want to do something fresh and different. The “hole in one with a driving experience” is a whole new idea, so we’ll have those marked out and make sure people understand that. The fact we could get this package–and have it all come from one place — that was a real convenience. It was really for the convenience and because that package will help us do things we haven’t done before.
What is your advice for new tournament planners?
Number one: Keep the cause alive. Keep people reminded of what your mission is, why you’re doing it, who it is you’re remembering, and what you’re going to do with that money. Keep that out in front so that it never becomes just another thing that they can take or leave.
Number two, I would say, is take the time to build and maintain relationships. You have to have those relationships, whether you want to talk to a sponsor or get golfers to come. And so if you make everybody feel that you’ve got the time for them and care about them, and you care about your cause, I think that’s huge.
Number three is maintaining enthusiasm. Always be balancing so that you keep enough of the traditional things you’ve done and that worked well with doing something new, so that even though they are coming back year after year, there is a fresh feel but still a sense of familiarity, too. It’s pretty important on an annual event. You’re going to have a core of people that you’re hoping will be back year after year; you’ve got to give them something new to come to. But that same group of people, if you throw everything out, they’re not going to feel like they came to your tournament. So that is my big three.
What is tournament planning’s biggest challenge?
I think the amount of details – you can go out there and put posters up and get people to come, but it’s the attention to the little details. Somebody has to stuff goodie bags, and somebody has to talk to the man whose going to donate the stuff going in the goodie bags, and somebody needs to put the names on the goodie bags and hand them out—I mean there’s a lot of logistics. Don’t overlook the details. It’s one thing to sit down with the mission on the conceptual side – that’s huge and that’s got to be there, but I think when it comes down to it, the thing that’s just the overwhelming part is getting it translated from the concept to the actual day.
What keeps you going year after year?
My son was a relationship builder. He worked hard in everything he did. And one of the things he really worked on was maintaining friendships. Relationships. And so many people wrote to us after his death and said, “His smile could absolutely save the day.” And they mentioned the fact that he would always stop and talk and have a minute to listen if you had a problem or “just because.” Knowing that about this kid, I’ve realized that part of this tournament is about the relationships. It’s for his legacy that we keep going. It’s one day where we cause people to come together. So because of that, I think it’s good to tell our story. It isn’t only keeping Peter’s memory alive, but giving people memories of their own.
For more information on the Peter Zornes Memorial Scholarship, or to make a donation to the Peter A. Zornes Memorial Neuroscience Scholarship, please contact Lynne Haley at (509) 335-5021 or mail to WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 647010, Pullman, WA 99164-7010.
You can view the Peter A. Zornes Memorial Golf Tournament website here.