It’s one of Tampa Bay area’s biggest golf tournaments, the Valspar Championship and this year for the first time in 41 years, the Valspar Championship broke ticket sale records during their March PGA Tour Tournament in Palm Harbor selling out on Saturday. The woman in charge and leading this event to new heights is tournament director Tracy West.
West, 52, is one of two women currently running the 46 PGA Tour Tournaments as tournament directors in what some would consider a male dominated field. When she was hired three years ago there were no females running tournaments.
“It doesn’t feel any different,” West said. “Personally I have been involved so long, probably started young enough in early 20’s, never felt like it.”
West said she was in Corporate America coming out of grad school from Michigan State University and was volunteering for the Senior PGA Tour in the fall of 1992, when she fell in love with it. Since then she’s been involved in some capacity in at least 47 PGA Tour Tournaments or PGA Tour Champions.
She’s worked tournaments with some of the greatest players in golf history, like Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
“In the very beginning of my career it was a bit intimidating,” said West. “I was never really star-struck with any players or celebrities, only one person, Arnold Palmer. I could never call him by his first name. I always said Mr. Palmer.”
Besides running a huge golf tournament, West has a family. She has been married to her husband Mike for 29 years and they have two children. Their son Emerson is a junior in college and daughter Hayley is a freshman in college. Her passion for golf is something she shares with her husband who is a class A Pro Golfer at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club in Clearwater.
“We’re a golf family. I am an average golfer. Luckily, I make my career hosting golf tournaments and not playing in them,” laughed West.
Having a career and being a mom can be tough when your job can sometimes require 80-90 hour workweeks, especially during tournament time.
“I have a super supportive husband,” said West. “When the kids were little, it was tough juggling their schedules with school, activities and appointments. For me, it was making sure I involved my kids in my work. I was fortunate and able to do that. The kids could volunteer for a tournament.”
West grew up in Michigan and worked in Boston for 16 years before moving to Florida.
“We always thought someday we would return to Florida,” West said. “My in-laws wintered in Siesta Key, so we’ve been coming to Florida. Grew up in the north. My husband hates the snow. His long-term goal always was to retire in Florida, but we didn’t know at the time we would retire here.”
As tournament director, West is responsible for the strategic direction of the event, setting the course for the year, bigger relationships with the sponsors, media relations, player relationships, board of directors, Cooperhead charities, overseeing tournament staff, financial budgeting, marketing and working with a PR firm.
West and her team work year-round on the tournament.
“For us, the overall highlight is when everything clicks – great weather and great crowds,” West said.
Thinking outside of the box to bring in record crowds is something co-worker and Valspar Championship Media Director Rick Odioso said West does well.
“Tracy is an exceptional tournament director as the growth of the Valspar Championship testifies,” Odioso said. “She has great energy, an optimistic outlook and a tremendous memory for detail. It enables her to successfully juggle a wide variety of responsibilities while managing and motivating a growing group of diverse people, from senior citizen volunteers to young interns.
“It’s a job that requires yearlong planning of many details that all comes to a crunch of one hectic week,” he continued. “She is very respectful of the traditions of golf, but also isn’t afraid to think outside box. The success of Valspar LIVE!, our concert series is just one example of that forward thinking. She is tireless in promoting the tournament and it is really remarkable how she has blended into the fabric of the community in just three years.”
One of the things she loves about her job is being able to raise money for more than 50 charities. Last year they raised more than $2.1 million.
“In the end it’s really nice to be able to reflect on money going back into the community,” West said.
Gary Koch, golf commentator and analyst for the Golf Channel has known Tracy for almost 15 years, from when she ran the PGA Tour Champions event in Boston.
“Working with Tracy is a pleasure, she is organized, energetic and has tremendous people skills,” he said. “She is comfortable speaking to a group of business leaders or a group of volunteers. She also has a great imagination when it comes to doing new and different things to give sponsors and spectators a reason to be a part of the Valspar Championship. Since Tracy took over the Valspar Championship the tournament has risen to new heights. With the Valspar committed as the title sponsor, she and her staff have been able to increase the number of sponsors, increase attendance and help the tournament give record amounts of money to local charities. In my opinion the Valspar Championship has become one of the most improved events on the PGA Tour in the last few years.”
And West says she wants to continue to make the Valspar Championship a great experience for everyone.
She’s already working on next year to make it even bigger and better.