Hollis Cavner was in line in the Atlanta airport for a flight to the Twin Cities on Wednesday night when a pair of Minnesotans returning from a foreign golf trip noticed him and started a brief conversation.
“The first fellow said, ‘You’re Horace, right?’ and I answered, ‘Close; Hollis,’ ” Cavner said. “And then they said ‘thank you’ for bringing the PGA Tour to the Twin Cities, followed by the question I keep getting.’’
Yes? “Do you have a chance to get Phil?’’ Cavner said. “And my answer is, ‘We’re trying as hard as we can.’ ”
Phil Mickelson will turn 49 in June, a couple of weeks before the first 3M Open is held (July 4-7) at TPC Twin Cities. The gentleman (and lady) golf devotees in the 40-plus demographic must feel as though there’s a shorter window to see a competitive Phil in Minnesota’s new event than there is for Tiger Woods, who will turn 43 on Dec. 30.
“Fans love ’em both; I’ve just been hearing the Phil question more often,’’ Cavner said.
That question is basically a spinoff of the one heard most often since the return of the PGA Tour to Minnesota was confirmed and then July 4th weekend was announced as the date:
“What is the 3M going to get for a playing field on that weekend?’’
The first important commitment came this week, with the announcement that Bryson DeChambeau plans to play here. He currently stands at No. 5 in the world rankings.
Cavner was in the 3M Open office that’s adjacent to TPC Twin Cities on Thursday morning. What is the meaning of a commitment made seven months before a PGA Tour weekly event?
“It means Bryson’s in, unless something major would disrupt his schedule,’’ Cavner said. “I sat with him at the event in the Bahamas; he’s in. He’s a brilliant guy, you know … a scientist, an engineer. He’s excited about meeting some of the 3M experts and talking about nanotechnology.
“I said, ‘Of course, Bryson … nanotechnology.’ ”
Cavner was asked if “seven or eight’’ of the top 20 would be a solid number for Minnesota’s return to the PGA Tour schedule after a 50-year absence.
“We’re going to get that many, for sure,’’ he said. “You will hear about a couple more players in the top 10 committing to be here in the next couple of weeks.’’
Cavner is the CEO of Pro Links Sports. He was the major force with the senior event that ran here for 26 years, from 1993 to 2018. Over that quarter-century, Pro Links Sports became an important operator of events overseen by the PGA Tour (both regular and Champions).
Pro Links Sports now handles seven events: weekly events in the Twin Cities, Tampa (Valspar) and Charlotte (Wells-Fargo), the World Golf event in Mexico City, and Champions events in Boca Raton, Fla., Houston and Sioux Falls.
Plus: The long-running PGA Tour event in Houston will be played in the fall of the 2019-20 schedule, it’s backed by Cavner’s friend Jim Crane (Astros owner), and Pro Links Sports will be involved in that.
The financial nut to crack for a successful Champions Tour event was so reasonable that Cavner offered free admission for the last decade of the 3M Championship.
“This is several times larger as an event and financial investment,’’ Cavner said. “We’re charging admission, obviously, although our prices are low — especially compared to what you’re paying for a major league event in every other arena and stadium in town.’’
There was considerable paperwork on Cavner’s desk — both good news and bad. The bad was a bill for storm damage at the course; the good was a signed agreement with the Zac Brown Band to appear at a concert on the course after the end of second-round play on Friday, July 5.
“We basically had all the grading done for the changes to the course, and then rains came in and washed a lot of it away,’’ Cavner said. “There goes over $200,000. But we got Zac Brown. There will be a special ticket that gets into the concert. It also gets you parking, admission and your food and drink all day long.
“Then, when Zac’s done playing, we’re going to have an outstanding fireworks show right at the course. We’re going to have a great party area next to No. 18 with food trucks, craft beer tents.
“We want more than golf fans. We want the foodies and the craft beer fans to get out here, and we’ll turn them into golf fans.’’
Starting with Bryson DeChambeau? “Yes, with more to come,’’ Cavner said.