Jared Rice has been director of sales and marketing for The Players Championship since 2010. He was recently named top salesperson for the PGA Tour for 2012, the second consecutive year he has received the honor.
Rice heads a team that has increased The Players corporate "partners" – as the Tour calls its sponsors – to more than 315 accounts that invest in the TPC Sawgrass event hosted in the Tour's backyard. The PGA Tour is based at 100 PGA Tour Blvd. in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Last year, corporate sales topped 2011 figures by nearly 10 percent and $6.5 million in tournament proceeds was donated to Northeast Florida charities.
Rice received a degree in sports management from the University of South Carolina and began his career at Anaheim Sports Inc., a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co. He said his five years with the company was the perfect precursor to his future in the industry.
"It was a unique experience and really helped in my approach to customer service," he said. "I will never forget the ways in which we, as a team, handled negative responses, as well as positive responses for things as simple as a bad batch of popcorn. The philosophy was to always make it right for the guest."
When Rice took the sales and marketing helm at The Players in 2010, he initiated steps that helped grow the tournament's influence in the community at-large.
His department developed a best-practices handbook to help sponsors use the tournament to best leverage business and increase return on investment. It also initiated communications with local hospitality venues and other businesses to help make tournament planning a turnkey operation.
Rice also implemented a "deep needs" analysis to determine a direction for tournament aspects.
"We ask all our partners, 'What do we do well?' and also 'What do we not deliver on?'" said Rice. "In many cases, small things have made a big difference."
The Players' improvements include the number of public spaces and venues.
In addition, this year also will have two large, permanent restrooms intended to increase comfort for all spectators.
"There is no other sport like the game of golf, where you can be entertained and engage with it at the same time, watching the best golfers walk right by you and following your favorite players," said Rice.
He compares the TPC Sawgrass facilities to Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, to be used and enjoyed by the community
"This course was planned for hosting and built for the spectator," he said. "That is top in my mind always."