Twice as Nice: Sean Sovacool returns to Salem CC
Sean Sovacool started his United States Golf Association (USGA) Championship career in Peabody, Mass and once again finds himself returning to Salem Country Club to work on another U.S. Senior Open. Fifteen years since the 2001 U.S. Senior Open, Sovacool is now the President of Bruno Event Team’s Golf Division, the management company selected manage the U.S. Senior Open, and oversees golf events in the U.S. and Canada.
Question: Fifteen years later and you’re still at Salem Country Club. What is it like working on the event but in a different capacity?
Sean Sovacool: I really don’t look at this go around much differently. My job requires me to oversee several events each year instead of just one but when it comes to the U.S. Senior Open I am very involved. I have worked on 11 of them since 2001. Anytime you have the chance to work with a club like Salem CC and an organization like the USGA, you feel the excitement and you know you and your team will need to be on top of your game. So this time around I’m not directing this event. That honor goes to Eddie Carbone but you can count on me to be in the trenches with the team throughout the next eight months. Salem has a special place in my heart so they will always get my best effort.
Q: The 2001 U.S. Senior Open is regarded as one of the best U.S. Senior Opens of all time with record breaking crowds and an all-star field. What was it like working on such an epic Championship?
SS: I moved here in 1999, which was the year of the Ryder Cup. There was little professional golf in the area and economic times were booming. The dot com era was in full swing and the North Shore community was very excited to have an event of their own. After the Ryder Cup that fall, I knew we were going to have something special. It was a historic event and the memories of the event helped us promote the US Senior Open as the next big event. I remember the day we announced that we had sold out our tickets in the fall of 2000 and the excitement grew every day from then on.
For me personally, it was my first of now 23 USGA Championships. The club, the community and the entire region embraced my wife and I as their own which made the entire experience very special.
Q: It seems like everyone from that event has one stand out memory from the Championship. What is yours?
SS: There are many memories but I always tell this one.
I was working for Executive Sports at the time, which was a company owned by Jack Nicklaus. On Monday afternoon, Jack called me and asked for a ride from the airport to the Course. I sent my most trusted volunteer and the General Chairman of the event Ollie Cooke to give him a ride. When Jack showed up at the course, I greeted and got him settled into the locker room. He shook my hand and asked that I tell all the volunteers on-site that he would be teeing off around 5:30 that night for a quick nine. He wanted them to join him for a nice stroll around the course. A wonderful gesture to those who worked so hard to put on the championship!
Q: It’s been over a decade since senior golf’s most prestigious event has been on the North Shore. What has changed the most since Salem Country Club held the U.S. Senior Open in 2001?
SS: Without question, there has been plenty of change. The PGA Tour has flourished under the current leadership featuring record purses, significantly more television exposure and a broader base of fans throughout the world. It has become an even more powerful international game expanding through Europe, Asia, South America and North America. The game has seen the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith, Jason Day and many other stars come up through the ranks and it is once again featured in the Olympics.
As for the Senior Circuit, the Tour itself has changed names two times since 2001 from the Senior Tour to the Champions Tour and now the PGA Tour Champions. The competition is much greater these days than back in 2001 with the addition of European players Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, David Frost and Miguel Angel Jimenez joining Tom Watson, Fred Couples, John Daly, Davis Love III, Tom Kite, Brad Faxon, Billy Andrade and a host of other great players.
One thing has stayed consistent, however, the US Senior Open continues to be the biggest major on our Tour. It is always conducted on world-class golf courses by a first-class organization (the USGA). We continue to see large crowds wherever we go and the competition is always exciting.
Q: Now that you’ve relocated from Boston to Birmingham, what do you miss most about the Bay State?
SS: I love this question and could write an essay. Instead here are some off the cuff answers:
· Fenway in Spring
· Playing Salem Country Club in the Fall when the colors are at peak
· The lobster and clam chowder
· The Garden during a Celtics or Bruins playoff game
· My friend Ray Farmer who passed away recently – when I lived at Salem, he took me to so many big games and I’ll never forget his kindness and generosity
· Watching Beverly play Salem in Football on Thanksgiving Day
· All of the guys from the 2001 Executive Committee lead by Ollie Cooke
· My house and neighbors in Beverly – a great place to live
· The North End
· The T
· Patriots Day
· Saint Patrick’s Day – just not the same anywhere else
Tickets are on sale for the 2017 U.S. Senior Open, which will be played June 26 – July 2, and can be purchased on line here.
By: Morgan Goldstein, Marketing & New Media Manager, 2017 U.S. Senior Open