Ron Mikolai has been a volunteer for the past 26 years. With fewer volunteers needed, he’s taking the year off, and possibly breaking a streak.
“I have the official hat from each tournament with only one autograph on it, and that’s the winner,” Mikolai said. “So I have 26 hats.”
While Mikolai misses rubbing shoulders with the world’s best golfers, he says its a show that puts the area on a big stage with the Golf Channel and CBS TV for four days.
“There are only so many of these events every year,” he said. “It is a big deal, it really is.”
Tournament officials say what’s lost locally in community engagement and entertainment value is transferred to coverage watched by millions.
“The ratings for the first six events have been off the charts, we expect that to continue with our tournament,” said Tournament Director Mike Welch. “Blaine, Anoka County and Minnesota should be proud because the whole world will be watching.”
But restaurants and hotels are missing a needed boost in a year that’s already been hit by COVID-19.
“I know the businesses were hoping for this to be a spike this year, but unfortunately they’re not going to be able to capitalize on all the people coming as far as spectators. But with that said there are still people buzzing around town whether its media or players there are still people around,” said Blaine Community Development Director Erik Thorvig.
Thorvig says its hard to place a value on being the back-drop to an event like a golf tournament with international reach.
“You never know who might be watching a telecast and been wondering, ‘maybe I want to move to Blaine,’ or know what Blaine is all about and maybe move a business to Blaine,” said Thorvig.
The city has even created its own commercial that will play during the telecast. The images back up the city’s new tag line as a place to, “Live Work and Grow.”
Thorvig says the whole event showcases the community for people who have never visited, or haven’t in a long time.
“A lot of people who may not have come to Blaine in the past 20 years come up here and look around and say, ‘gee this is a much different community than it was 20 years ago.'”