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Tournament Highlight Series: Friends of TTN 12th Annual Airport Golf Outing

For this Tournament Highlights Article I interviewed Hillary Banas, an event Organizer for the Friends of TTN Airport Golf Outing in Trenton, New Jersey.

The Friends of TTN Aiport Golf Outing is an Annual Charity Golf outing that benefits The Skies The Limit Fund, a nonprofit that provides scholarship money to Mercer County Community College aviation students. The scholarships are presented at an awards ceremony to deserving aviation students who are in the process of becoming airline pilots.

“The tournament was started by a group of Trenton-Mercer airport people locally. Because the aviation community is a really tight knit community, it grew into a national undertaking. It’s great because you’re able to network with your colleagues in a relaxed setting. We’re really lucky that we get participants from Colorado and California and Florida to come to this tournament!”

The Friends of TTN Golf Outing is in its 12th year and going strong. However, after the tournament organizer for the past 11 years stepped down at the end of last year’s event, the remaining committee had the daunting task of continuing the tradition by themselves.

“He had done all the nitty-gritty tasks himself,” explains Hillary, “getting the signs, calling the sponsors, getting the paperwork, invoicing, etc. When we met with him, we realized that we all had jobs that we needed to be able to maintain while still putting on this tournament and helping the MCCC Aviation Community.”

That, Hillary says, is when they found Golf Digest Planner.

“Golf Digest Planner really saved so much time and energy and helped us organized things in a way that I don’t think we could have without it being done electronically.”

With the help of Golf Digest Planner, this year’s golf outing raised a record amount of funds for the Skies the Limit Fund, even with an inexperienced committee.

“I think it helped the people registering because it was at their convenience, they could sign up when they wanted. It was good for us too as a committee, because we could all hop on and see what happening. It wasn’t a lot of discussion or paperwork we had to go through. It was clean, it was a very clean process, and I can’t imagine doing it all manually by phone and mail.”

I asked Hillary what she enjoyed about organizing the tournament.

“It was kind of fun to see who’s registering, who’s golfing and who’s sponsoring, and to see all these people start pouring in at the last minute. It was really exciting to see it all come together at the last minute!"

The tournament was held at at Mountain View Golf Course on October 7, 2015. It was perfect weather, despite predictions of a huge storm. They had so many players, that they had to bring in golf carts from other courses. In short, it was a roaring success.

Reflecting back, Hillary advises tournament organizers not to underestimate how much you need to constantly be on the phone reminding potential sponsors for their support.

“People commit over and over verbally, but until it gets into the online system, you can’t count on them. I knew they would commit in the end but getting them there wasn't the easiest endeavor! You really need a committee that knows individuals and can push sponsors to commit.”

She also notes that a laid back atmosphere can attract players to your tournament. She explains how the committee decided to add some fun elements that take the pressure off, and allow less experienced golfers to have fun too.

“A couple of days before, a committee members ordered a sling shot. We had a sling shot hole, we had a red cup challenge, and I think that changed the tone of the event, allowing everyone to enjoy themselves."

Flexibility was key. Especially, she notes, with the sponsors. Multiple hole sponsors were interested in bringing “demos” to the course to promote their safety related products. From burning computers and simulated “smoking vans” the course was alive with fiery demonstrations, highlighting potential safety problems that pilots can run into and how the sponsor’s products could come to the rescue. In the beginning, these sponsor requests had the committee cringing, sure that they would serve as a huge challenge to the flow of the tournament.

“We thought it was going to be a challenge having the demos on the course, but it worked to our advantage. It was so important because the sponsors got their messages out, and the players got to breathe for a minute and have a drink while they watched the demos. The sponsors got to collect business cards and it was a great networking opportunity for them.” These small details had a big impact on the feel of the event, and are what contributed to the success of the day.

Hilary says her favorite part of the tournament was putting names to faces after months of emails and phone calls.

“It’s so gratifying – it sounds corny but it was! It was so gratifying to meet the sponsor who had traveled from Ohio wanted a margarita station and to sip a margarita with him! With each hug and handshake I felt like I aws meeting an old friend even though we had only been emailing each other logistical information for months. Any stress that went into putting this event together melted away when I connected a name with a face."

The 13th annual golf outing is already scheduled for October 5, 2016, and Golf Digest Planner is thrilled to continue supporting this inspiring tournament.

“It all came together in a really great way. We really lucky that it all fell into place. We are so grateful for all the sponsors and players that support the TTN scholarship Fund year after year.”

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