Global Edition

GBN Interviews Scott Evans, Centurion Club Managing Director

4.30pm 27th June 2022 - Interviews

Golf Business News (GBN) sat down with Centurion Club Managing Director, Scott Evans to discuss the recent LIV Golf Invitational and Aramco Team Series (ATS) events, that were held at the Club on consecutive weeks earlier this month

Scott Evans

GBN: How well did hosting back-to-back tournaments work and how do you think the club benefited by hosting them?

SE: It worked well and the Aramco event benefited from the infrastructure build of the LIV event which I’m told was one of the most expensive builds in the UK outside of The Open. We only had 12 weeks to pull it all together and a huge thank you to Matt Selby, Tom Hogg and all the P54 team, also my own team at Centurion Club led by Michael Duffy, Andy Garland, Peter Holland, Andy Stubbs, Angela Wakelin, Lee Anne Macdonnell and Alison Horwood-Jones for working 24/7, round the clock in such a short space of time.

There are so many to thank, it is hard to know where to stop. By consolidating the tournaments back-to-back the disruption was kept to the minimum and we were able to involve the members in the Pro Am’s, including a members’ only Pro Am the week of the Aramco event.

GBN: How have the members reacted to the hosting of the events and how have they been impacted?

SE: They’ve been very positive. We hosted an AGM for our Senate Shareholders before the tournaments took place and they voted unanimously in favour of all that was happening. As the LIV tournament unfolded any negativity from the media prior to the event was soon dismissed and you could see our members bursting with pride.

Like the public, they just wanted to see the best golfers play and have a fun day out.

(Photo credit GBN)

GBN: Will Centurion Club host the LIV Golf and Aramco (ATS) events in 2023 and beyond?

SE: We have an agreement to host the LIV Golf event for two years, with an option for a further year, and we have a contract for the ATS until 2026, so we are fully committed to hosting these events in the future.

GBN: Do you think any changes need to be made to the spectator experience next time?

SE: There are always improvements that can be made, but we will sit down and review everything with Performance 54, the promoters and LIV. The spectator village had a lovely vibe, with a great mix of activities for all ages and the concerts at the end of play each day were spectacular. The tournament, the village and concerts were pulled together at very short notice and there were supply chain problems with many other events going on at the same time, like Royal Ascot etc.

With a bit more planning and a better understanding of spectator numbers the event will be able to accommodate everyone. We also need to make sure the volunteers are looked after, so there are always things that can be done better.

GBN: LIV Golf made substantial grants to assist local good causes. How were the beneficiaries selected and how will it be administered?

SE: LIV Golf have made a $1m donation for local charities following the tournament. This will be managed by an independent group of people, chaired by our local MP, who will invite applications from local charities for funding. This is still ongoing and is wonderful for the local area.

The final day of the LIV Golf Invitational London 2022 at the Centurion Club, St Albans, United Kingdom on 11 June 2022. Picture: DANNY LOO

GBN: Do you feel the LIV event attracted a slightly different type of spectator?

SE: It certainly looked like a more youthful crowd, which might have been helped by the concerts. There were loads of children here on the Saturday and lots of smiling faces. Exactly what golf needs.

GBN: What was the impact of the shotgun start on the event organisation?

SE: It was like any shotgun start in that there was a mad scramble to get everyone to the right tee on time, but in terms of TV it was great to compact play into a 4-5 hr timeslot. It’s maybe something others might like to consider, and that’s what it is all about, jazz it up a bit, see what works rather than the same old format of 72 holes and cuts etc.

Taking the players out to the tees in London cabs was a bit of fun although it was £10.20 to get out to the 9th. – Uber next time! The flyby Spitfires and Hurricanes to start the shotgun got everyone’s attention, it was a master stroke.

(Photo GBN)

GBN: What was the player feedback on the course and facilities?

SE: The players had a great time, there was a great camaraderie amongst them, you could say ‘a band of brothers’. They were certainly in great spirits throughout the week. They all found the course a great test, tough but fair. We set it up as a par 70, but it was fast on and around the greens, which were running at 13.5 on one of the days, we could have made them quicker but for the wind on the Friday.

I foxed them on the 9th, by making it a par 4 instead of a par 5 – they struggled with that hole. We will lengthen it for next year and return it to a good Par 5. In general, they loved the course, which I’m delighted about and I thought it looked fantastic on TV. It was great for the wider public to see what a good test of golf it is. The course might have been the star of the show! The feedback on the facilities was equally positive, so it was a great couple of weeks for us.

GBN: What was the build period and how long will the breakdown take?

SE: We only got confirmation of the tournament in March, so the build was only able to start eight weeks prior. This meant it was bit frantic, with upwards of 400 workmen and suppliers on site on any given day.

I’m very proud of my own team and Matt’s team at Performance 54, but special mention should go to Carl and Mike and all the guys at Arena. They worked 24/7 and were fabulous. They are still working and should leave site by the middle of July. The local economic benefit of the build and breakdown shouldn’t be overlooked, it will have been a great boost to the businesses around the club.

Charl Schwartzel

GBN: How did hosting the first ever LIV Golf event come about?

SE: We were originally scheduled to host the ATS event, preceded by a regular Asian Tour event (the first one in Europe).

I went down to see the first International Series event in Thailand and I got a call from Majed Al Surour (Golf Saudi CEO) at 3.00am, saying ‘I want to change your event from a $2m prize fund to $25m, Launch LIV, will you do it?’ It took me two seconds to decide ‘yes – let’s get it on!’

I have the greatest respect for Majed and his passion and appetite for the game. He in return is supported by HE Yasir Al Ruyymann, who is committed to seeing the game as a force for good not only around the world but within his own country.

My own view is we cannot afford to lose this level of investment to other sports and I’m happy to support them wherever I can; it’s great for golf.

GBN: Have you had any contact from the DP World Tour to the effect that hosting the LIV Golf event would preclude Centurion Club from being a venue for a DPWT event?

SE: Well, the DP World Tour are not going to be knocking on our door anytime soon and I’m committed to LIV and the Aramco tournaments for the next few years.

We are only a venue and as such we have embraced all these new innovative ideas and tournaments. We worked well with (formerly) The European Tour on the Golf Sixes and The Paddy Power Shoot-Out Events. As a Club we have made a considerable investment into these events.

We made a business decision to go down this path and in terms of marketing you couldn’t buy it. We are now dealing with all the enquiries and interest in the Club that the events have generated.

By coincidence, I met Keith Pelley in a local restaurant the day after our event and we shared a couple of pleasantries. He’s a good man. It’s been an unsettled period for all in the golf industry and everyone is doing their best. He is in a difficult position, but must find a way.

I just question this association with US PGA Tour. Is it in the best interests of European Golf and golf in general? I fear not and for the future of The Ryder Cup: commercially it could become a one-sided affair which will have serious implications for the PGA club professionals in the UK and Europe.

It’s a great shame that we’re fighting like this in the golf business, but the positive in it all is it has pushed the bar to $25 million and now the PGA Tour have found another $160 million for new events – where was that money a month ago?

It’s called competition. It’s great for the game and now golf is on the back pages again. I do hope everyone finds a solution to work together, but I suspect it will take a few years, so a DP World event coming to Centurion Club may not happen in the short term but never say never – if the course is good enough!

We are now submitting a planning application for another nine holes and additional practice facilities, which is very exciting for us.


GBN: The ATS event has a similar sponsor and partners to the LIV Golf event and yet one is “Official”, whilst the other is seen as threat to the DPWT and the PGAT, why is that??

SE: Good question! You need to ask the USPGA Tour, their monopoly and grip on the game is threatened and they are losing control. The dirty tricks and narrative against Saudi, Greg Norman, LIV and the players who have signed has been appalling and has no place in the game.

The US PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the other governing bodies are supposed to be custodians of the game. They need to look themselves in the mirror and start behaving like it. They must find a way to embrace this change to the game, I’m interested to see the reaction form the committee overseeing world ranking points (OWGR).

Aramco stands for Arabian American Oil Company. Saudi Arabia has been a great partner to the US and the UK and that partnership is required more than ever in this unsettled World.

It’s very exciting to watch Saudi Arabia on its journey as it evolves and changes for the better, for its people. There are a lot of similarities with Dubai and UAE 30 years ago and using golf as a force for good.

It is worth noting that the Aramco event was the first sporting event for ladies in the Kingdom and it was golf!

At the prize giving for the Ladies Aramco Team Series, Ibrahim Al-Buainain (Vice President – Sales) and Khalid Al Zamil (General Manager) thanked me and said ‘they were honoured to come to our lovely club’, This was very humbling and the honour was ours.

GBN: Scott Evans, thank you very much.

Centurion Club

 /  /  / 

In related news... (GBN) is for the many thousands of people who work in the golf business all around the world.

We cover the full range of topics both on and off the course. We aim to supply essential information both quickly and accurately in a format which is easy to use. We are independent of all special interest groups.


Click here to sign up for our free twice weekly golf industry news summary

View the latest newsletter here