By Greg Ceilley
for The Beacon
HAVEN – Jason Mengel, director of the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, is looking forward to a very successful event which will have a huge financial impact on the state of Wisconsin.
The Ryder Cup men’s golf matches between Team USA and Team Europe will be held Sept. 25-27 on the Straits Course which was the site of three PGA Championships and one U.S. Senior Open.
“They’ve been great to work with. They’ve been with us every step of the way,” said Mengel about Whistling Straits and the Kohler Co. which owns Whistling Straits. “The one thing that’s been exciting is that we share the same goal which is to make this the best Ryder Cup that’s ever been contested.
“I have every confidence that with their expertise and their input on the golf course, and with (Team USA) captain (Steve) Stricker and (Team Europe) captain (Padraig) Harrington, we’ll all come together and if Mother Nature cooperates, we’ll have a great week,” said Mengel in a recent interview in his office at Whistling Straits. “Based on past domestic Ryder Cups, we anticipate a positive economic impact of about $135 million on basically the entire state. Obviously, there aren’t enough hotels here in Sheboygan to accommodate everyone attending the event. We’ll have people staying in Green Bay, Milwaukee, probably into Chicago, and certainly out west to Fond du Lac and Madison and so forth.”
Mengel expects over 200,000 fans to attend the Ryder Cup, which includes three practice days prior to the start of competition. Daily tickets for the event sold out in record time during the Random Selection Process last fall.
Mengel said there were a record number of ticket registrants for a domestic Ryder Cup from all 50 states and over 120 countries.
Volunteer positions for the Ryder Cup have been filled for over six months now.
“We’ll use about 4,000 volunteers. We had over 30,000 people register for those 4,000 spots. I can’t thank enough everyone who was interested in volunteering,” said the Ryder Cup director.
“About 4,000 volunteers are normally the number we need for a Ryder Cup [in the United States].
“One of the great things about Whistling Straits is everybody can park on site. Regardless of where you are staying, you’ll be able to pull right up to the door. We’ll be releasing our transportation and routing planning to the general public later this year.”
Mengel said spectators from the general parking lot north of the golf course will be shuttled to the main entrance.
“I think we’re as well-positioned for success as we can be,” he said, referring to the transportation to the event.
Mengel is very pleased with how well the sales of corporate hospitality offerings through suites and chalets have gone thus far for the event. Suites and chalets will be located on the course and adjacent to the course.
“We’ve had a fantastic response. We still have a number of smaller (hospitality) packages primarily available. You can go to rydercup.com for more information on those,” he said.
Mengel said the way things are trending he expects the rest of the chalets, suites, etc. to be sold out in advance. He noted that companies from throughout Wisconsin, the Midwest and the rest of the country along with some companies from Europe have purchased facilities to view the Ryder Cup.
Most of the infrastructure work for the Ryder Cup has been completed, including spectator enhancement (widening walkways and adding stadium seating-like areas) and preparing the ground for the main entrance (by the south parking lot).
Mengel said the ceremony stage, the international pavilion and the Ryder Cup shops will be located near the main entrance.
“A ton of spectator activations and concessions will all kind of go in that area (by the main entrance). It will really function as kind of the downtown Ryder Cup during the event,” he pointed out. “All the work that’s been done to date has been outside the ropes (of the Straits Course).”
The remaining infrastructure work will be completed this spring. Construction of the facilities is expected to begin in mid-May. Mengel said a series of meetings with vendors will be held at the end of March at which time the construction schedule will be finalized.
“Everything will be needed to be completed by the Friday prior to event week,” he said.
Mengel, the director of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, is very pleased with how preparations for the Ryder Cup are coming along so far.
“Now that we’re inside of a year, I think we’re as well-positioned for success as I think we would’ve hoped when we opened our office in October of 2017,” he said. “We still have a long way to go. We still have to build over 1½ million square feet of temporary flooring, but assuming that all continues to trend the way it has, we’re as well-positioned as any Ryder Cup.
“We talked about how wonderful Kohler (Co.) has been to work with. We have a great team here in the office. We have a number of our colleagues at the (PGA of America) headquarters who have been through this before.”
Mengel said the entire 2020 Ryder Cup host committee attended the 2016 Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
“Our committee had meetings with their counterparts, so really we’ve been looking at ways to improve the 2020 Ryder Cup since 2016 at least,” he said.
Mengel noted that a small number of the 2020 Ryder Cup executive committee went to the 2018 Ryder Cup at the Le Golf National near Paris, France.
“We kept an open mind, we learned a lot and we came back with a lot of great suggestions,” he recalled.
Mengel was asked how much it means to him to be the director of this year’s Ryder Cup.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, that’s for sure. The good thing is that we have a very good team here. We have one of the most experienced teams certainly in the PGA of America. I would put our team’s experience up against anyone in golf,” he said. “(There’s) 10 of us working out of this office. It’s been a great team effort. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to have the wonderful support.
“We have a fantastic staff – our colleagues at the headquarters, our friends at Kohler (Co.) and the members of our host committee. To be a part of that is a great honor.”
Mengel said that having been the 2015 PGA Championship director has been incredibly helpful to his position as the 2020 Ryder Cup director.
“Being able to maintain ongoing dialogue with the Kohler Co. between the 2015 PGA Championship and our arrival back on-site in the fall of 2017 was instrumental in a variety of different aspects,” he said. “One example was being able to put together the 2020 Ryder Cup host committee in advance of the 2016 Ryder Cup which allowed us to take advantage of inviting 2020 Ryder Cup committee members to attend the 2016 event and connect face to face with their counterparts.
“Additionally, knowing the leadership in the community here from our time together surrounding the 2015 PGA Championship has proven extremely helpful as we have engaged with local agencies on security, parking and traffic-control planning.
“Finally, just having an intimate level of familiarity with the golf course and the property surrounding the Straits Course has been invaluable as we have embarked on 2020 planning over the past few years.”
He was also the director of the 2017 PGA Championship in Charlotte, N.C., and the 2013 Senior PGA Championship near St. Louis, Mo.
“It’s been great working with Steve and Nicki Stricker. I’m really excited to help them hopefully win back the Ryder Cup this year,” said Mengel.
Europe won the 2018 Ryder Cup, 17½ points to 10½.