Following months of promotion and planning, the Web.Com Chiquita Classic PGA golf tournament was held last week at Davidson's River Run Country Club. The tournament featured a purse of $1 million, plus the opportunity for players to earn eligibility to play in next year's PGA tour.
With 150 players and numerous associates in town for most of a week, the event had a significant economic impact on the area. The tournament sponsor, Charlotte-based Chiquita, decided to recruit two Davidson College economics professors to find out just how significant the impact was.
Last spring Chiquita contacted Professor and Chair of Economics Fred Smith and Associate Professor of Economics Mark Foley about surveying golf fans and conducting an economic analysis of the event. The two professors accepted the assignment and selected economics majors Erik Ducker '14 and Sal Del Giudice '15 to assist in the effort.
Over the summer Smith, Foley and the students designed a nine-response survey. Smith explained, "We asked patrons for basic demographic information, including place of residence, income level, and how many people were in their party. We also asked them to estimate expenditures on a host of different categories, such as cost of transportation, shopping, food and lodging."
Ducker noted that the study had challenges. "We wanted to determine the economic boost created by the tournament, and not just the redistribution of consumer spending from one area to the next," he said. "For example, a Davidson resident paying to attend the tournament might have done that in place of making a purchase at local businesses like the town cinema. People traveling from the outside to Davidson, however, created the majority of the economic impact by becoming new customers for local hotels, restaurants and businesses."
The ticketing policy for the tournament also presented a unique wrinkle in the analysis. Chiquita donated hundreds of tournament tickets to about 55 local non-profit organizations, and allowed them to keep the proceeds of their sales. People from the outside the area who bought tickets at the tournament itself also had the opportunity to designate which non-profit should benefit from their purchase. Those unique charitable donations to area organizations also needed to be included as an economic impact of the tournament.
The Davidson economics team, which included several other student volunteers, attended most days of tournament play, and ended up with about 350 completed surveys. Ducker and Del Giudice will now compile and "clean" the data, and enter it into an economic analysis computer program that Chiquita purchased for the team.
Ducker and Del Giudice are conducting the analysis this semester as an independent study project for academic credit. They will write a report for Chiquita, and will also post results on the economics department web page. "It's exciting to get to work with professors to publish an academic report," said Ducker. "They will hold my quality of work to a high standard, which should improve my writing skills."
Smith lauded Chiquita for wanting to create a meaningful relationship with the local community. "Chiquita obviously cares about giving back to the community," he said. "When they approached us they said they would prefer that a local college carry out this study. It was also generous of them to allow local charities to benefit from the event."
Smith said that the tournament was also a valuable opportunity for student volunteers to see how a large, televised sporting event is managed. "Students interested in non-profit work, event planning, and marketing all could have learned something by attending," Smith said.
He also said the study could open the door toward other relationships between Davidson and Chiquita. "This is a business that could make use of Davidson students and graduates, through things like internships for current students or jobs for graduates," he said. "Partnering with a large business headquartered in Charlotte is obviously a great opportunity for our students, and we very much appreciate Chiquita allowing us to get involved."