by Frank Murtaugh
The FedEx St. Jude Classic returns to Memphis (June 6-12), again bringing the PGA Tour’s best to the Bluff City. This will be the first tournament under the direction of 33-year-old Darrell Smith, who assumed his new duties when longtime director Phil Cannon moved into an advisory role last fall.
What has been your biggest adjustment since taking over as tournament director?
I’ve been fortunate. Phil Cannon gave me my start here in 2005 [as an intern], and I’ve been able to be involved with a lot in the production of a PGA Tour event. The biggest adjustment has been the reality that, hey, I’m the tournament director now. It’s just assuming that role. I feel like I’m prepared for a lot of what I’m doing, and I’m sure I’ll learn more as we get closer to the tournament. We’re trying to recruit the best players in the world to come play Memphis. I’ve been more involved in player relations than I have in the past.
You left to work for a tournament in Dallas briefly (2010), only to return to Memphis. What brought you back?
Memphis is home for me and my wife. We enjoyed our time in Texas; it was during a time of transition for the [FESJC]. We were going to make ourselves better professionally and personally. There was an opportunity in Texas, so we took it. But when Phil and Jack Sammons called me and said they had good news to share, that FedEx was coming back as a title sponsor, it was a no-brainer for us. I had been on the operations side of things until then. The opportunity in Memphis was more on the sales side, revenue-generating. It was the next step in my professional development.
Memphis has hosted a PGA tournament almost 50 years (since 1958). What must the FESJC do to get even better?
We want to become one of the Mid-South’s biggest events. In the past, it’s been a golf event. But we’ve decided this is more than just golf. It’s the largest outdoor festival in the city of Memphis, and that means music. It means food. There’s fun for everybody. It can be a family, a corporate customer, or a single ticket-holder. We want to provide an environment where there are a lot of things to do besides watching golf.
Do you play golf? What’s your dream foursome?
I am a golfer. My dream foursome would include my father, Tiger Woods, and my uncle, who introduced me to the game of golf.
What’s the best hole for a fan to watch at the FESJC?
I think the 11th hole will be the place to be at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. That’s the island green. It’s the signature hole at TPC Southwind, a par 3, lots of action. We’ve constructed a new venue called the Island Club that should create a lot of excitement. Hopefully we’ll see some holes-in-one. A lot of fans like to see every shot on a hole, and at 11 they can see all three. We’re looking forward to building some momentum there.
Frank Murtaugh is managing editor of inside memphis business and memphis, and a lifelong sports fan.
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