Two tournaments. Two tournament directors. Similar job descriptions.
This week marks what is arguably the most significant sports week of the year in the Piedmont Triad.
Both the Winston-Salem Open tennis tournament and the Wyndham Championship golf tournament start this week in Winston-Salem and Greensboro respectively.
That means Bill Oakes and Mark Brazil probably won’t get to see each other.
Brazil has run the Wyndham Championship for 17 years. Oakes, the Winston-Salem Open the last seven years.
“Really, at the end of the day, we’re trying to bring some fun and recreation to the people of the Piedmont Triad,” Brazil told me recently during a rare opportunity when he was able to sit down with Oakes in the same room for a joint interview. “And I don’t see us competing at all.”
“And for us, we want Mark to be and the Wyndham to be so successful because that’s helped the entire community, and it’s helped us,” Oakes said.
In addition to satisfying those who pay to attend the tournaments, both Oakes and Brazil serve corporate partners/sponsors as well as the golf and tennis professional players, their families and their agents.
Both agree developing good relationships year-around is key — especially when it comes to recruiting players.
“And the players and their agents and their groups all come up and they’re friendly to us because they know that we’re doing something good for them,” Oakes said. Oakes also said he spends time on Christmas Day texting “Merry Christmas” to players.
Brazil added, “I try to create a relationship and then let’s just see what happens. They all know I want them to come to our tournament.”
Oakes and Brazil also share concerns about their respective sports.
“Our demographic is 45 (years old) and up,” Brazil said. “We’ve got to get the millennials into the game. We’ve got to find a way for people to go out and play golf for just an hour and enjoy it.”
“When you look at the average age of a tennis fan, it’s not under 50,” Oakes said. “Our average age is way too high. So for us, it’s figuring out a way to eliminate the 5-hour match.”
Both tournaments also benefit local charities. The Wyndham donates thousands of dollars every year to nonprofits ranging from Habitat for Humanity to area backpack programs — among many others. The Winston-Salem Open’s proceeds benefit primarily middle school athletic programs in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System.
Tournament play for the Wyndham Championship begins Aug. 16 and runs through Aug. 19. For more information, click here.
The Winston-Salem Open runs Aug. 18 through Saturday Aug. 25. For more information, click here.