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A look behind the PGA scenes

Former Bemidji resident Jared Phillips works as a sales assistant for the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National this week. Phillips is a 1998 Bemidji High grad. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

CHASKA-There is much more to the PGA Championship than the golf.

Behind the scenes there are hundreds of support staff who do all the unseen things at Hazeltine to make the tournament run smooth for spectators.

One of those workers is Jared Phillips, a 1998 Bemidji High School graduate, working as a sales assistant for the PGA Championship.

"It's a job that started last October and back then I was working just a couple days per week," Phillips said. "But the hours have grown longer with the more things involved as the PGA Championship week came closer."

His duties early on included managing a corporate client database before later helping distribute corporate tickets. There are large capacity chalets on the course and before championship week, Phillips conducted walkthroughs with clients to make sure expectations were met.

During championship week, Phillips serves as village host in the Payne Stewart Village located between the 10th and 18th holes.

"Basically I'm doing whatever the clients need and it's probably best described as a concierge service," Phillips said, noting his 14 hour work days this week. "I do things like help coordinate rides so people can get their tickets and sometimes it's something as simple as adjusting the temperature of the chalet. It's really a lot of little, different things that keep the job interesting."

This is Phillips' second position at a major golf tournament. Last summer he worked in event operations for the U.S. Women's Open at Interlachen Country Club. He networked into his current job when Shannon Loechner selected Phillips after learning of his Open experiences.

"The one thing that's different about this compared to the Open is just the sheer size of the thing," Phillips said. "The size and staff for the PGA, the vendors -- the thing that is amazing is the amount of people. The PGA is the last major and it's a big deal. It's a massive, massive production."

Phillips finished his masters degree in sports management from the University of Minnesota in May and his career path continues this fall as the assistant coach of the Gustavus Adolphus men's hockey team. He will also teach classes at the college and manage the hockey rink.

"I've always thought that I'd be doing something in college athletics," Phillips said. "But working these last two championships have opened my eyes a little bit and showed me that there are so many opportunities to work in sports. It's a lot of work, but in the end it's very rewarding."

With hundreds of media outlets and thousands of fans converging on Chaska, the telecommunications infrastructure around Hazeltine needed a major boost.

Steve Geiselhart and Jim Tieman are onsite managers for the Embark Corporation, one of the many contractors working in tandem with the PGA.

Both frequent the Bemidji area in the summer for vacation and Geiselhart is a native of Detroit Lakes.

They have been working for the last six weeks to make sure cell phones and telephones service runs smoothly at Hazeltine.

They have installed 26 hi-speed T1 fiber optic data lines, 50 DSL Internet lines and 29 ISDN lines for radio. To put those numbers in perspective, there were only seven T1 lines in Chaska when they began working on the PGA.

They have also installed broadband Internet service and 180 phone lines in the media center.

"All of the major companies - Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile - basically needed to increase the size of their data pipeline," Tieman said. "Especially AT&T because those iPhones are such bandwidth hogs."

Media and fans are not allowed to bring cell phones on the Hazeltine grounds. Those who bring phones are required to check it at the gate or leave.

"We find that right after Tiger plays his rounds and people start going home, the use of the phone lines in the media room and the cell phones in the area spike dramatically," Geiselhart said. "It really shows how much the system can handle. As long as the phones are up, the media is happy and the PGA is happy."