One of the first events you discover when joining the tradeshow industry is the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic. Since its inception in 1995, the RSMGC has grown into an industry-wide event that brings colleagues from all corners of our industry together for a great cause. In honor of this event’s distinguished history as well as its draw to industry novices, this article explores the perspective of both an event founder and an RSMGC newcomer. Rich Johnson, account executive at Renaissance Management, and Hillary Hull, marketing coordinator at Momentum Management, offer their individual outlooks on the RSMGC.
Q: Tell me about your participation in the Randy Smith this year; were you a volunteer, did you play golf, etc?
Rich: I actually played golf this year. This is only the second time in 16 years I’ve actually played. You know the old joke about us? “Where else can you play a seven hour round of golf and not get pissed off?” Well that’s us! I also think I found more beer carts than fairways.
Hillary: I volunteered this year by helping sell the raffle tickets upon registration and driving the beverage cart around the course to supply our golfers with drinks and snacks throughout the day. This gave me the opportunity to meet the participants and understand why this event is so special.
Q: Has there been a moment that stands out to you the most in all the years you have participated in this event?
Rich: Each Randy kind of stands alone and each is unique in its own way, sort of like a golf swing itself. I guess a tangible way to sort them is by the different host venues. Berkeley Hills is much different than Chateau Élan, which is much different than our ancestral home Hidden Hills. So, I guess each individual participant can compartmentalize their moment or memories by venue, whether it was a golf shot they nutted or a particular recipient speech. Personally I miss making the banquet films, they have always been special moments for me.
Q: How has the event evolved over the years?
Rich: Mike Boone has a succinct saying, “Once you go than you’ll know” and that’s right on and we get confirmation of this from each first-timer. Then, I look at the core group of long-term Randy participants that are kind of like dogs hanging their heads out of a car window – they really, really like it and can’t get enough of it. So I guess each year we keep getting more dogs in our car hanging their heads out the window, or the same dogs hanging their heads out the window. Sometimes in the past, it rained and we had to roll the windows up on them but, they still smudged their noses on the windows. The other evolvement level is obviously the recipients.
Our net has been cast for a lot of years now and unfortunately there continues to be a strong need for our help. I believe the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic, and our affiliated events, is closing in on one hundred recipient families since our inception in 1995. I don’t know how to communicate what that milestone number means. It’s mixed emotions, I guess. It’s the inherent Good Friday nature of the event, which is why we focus so heavily on the Easter Sunday celebration part. As the Reverend Reid Sherwood always says, you can’t have one without the other.
Q: Why did you get involved with this cause?
Rich: I personally got involved in the event with my partner and co-founder, Ted Peterson, after Randy Smith died. We had the idea of holding an event to help his wife Jenny and two young children Justin and Austin. The initial idea was to invite our co-workers and friends to participate. We were very fortunate to have a lot of friends in the Atlanta community that supported this since the beginning.
What shocked us was how we were able, from day one through today, to bring competitors together on this one day for the good of the cause. That continues to amaze me and is the one of the core reasons for our success. Remember that great story about the Germans and the English on Christmas Day during WWI? They had a cease fire, came out of their respective fox holes, had Christmas dinner, got loaded and played soccer. Well that’s kind of like us, except we get loaded and play golf before going back to our respective fox holes to fire muskets and lob cannon balls at each other again.
Hillary: Being new to the industry this year, I had never heard of the RSMGC. After participating in the 2010 bowling event sponsored by the southeastern chapter of the EDPA, I began to research the foundation and absolutely fell in love with what this organization does for our industry. Volunteering for this event was the least I could do to help our industry partners in need.
Q: From your perspective, what makes this event different than other charitable events?
Rich: I think what sets our event apart is that it is very personal. Each of us has known many of our recipients personally.I think it’s a tribute to our sense of community, and that these tragedies are real and can happen to any of us at any time. It’s a good feeling knowing that if any one of us suffered a tragedy, the event will be there for us and our families in our time of need.
Hillary: The fact that this organization helps our industry peers makes it very unique. I have been so impressed by the generosity and caring attitudes of my tradeshow colleagues. By example, they are willing to contribute whether it’s a customer, their strongest competitor or someone they’ve never met. To witness an event where everyone comes together for one common cause is amazing.
Q: As a first-timer how do you see the event growing in the years to come? Did this year’s event encourage any of your colleagues to participate next year?
Hillary: I have certainly been inspired to promote this cause to my colleagues to participate in the future. My hope is that we can spread the word about this organization to as many industry professionals as possible.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a founder of this event and to participate every year?
Rich: I guess it means a lot, although to what extent I’m not sure anymore. Yes, Ted and I were the original drivers, but I almost feel we’re getting old and in the way. We have a tremendous support staff around us. Like I said at the banquet, inertia doesn’t move the
Randy, real people do. And those real people are Jim Wurm, Sandra Braun, Robert Laarhoven, Kellie Shevlin, Dave Walens, Bobby Prihoda, Sharon Bingham, Kathy Peterson, and the one and only Mike Boone. This board brings a lot of energy, ideas and enthusiasm. And the onsite volunteers have just done a wonderful job forever, they’ve got it wired. I honestly believe Ted and I could step aside and this thing would hum right along, probably even better on some levels.
Q: Has your first time participating in the Randy inspired you in any way?
Hillary: Most definitely. When people set aside personal and business schedules for a common cause like this, good things happen. It’s also quite humbling to hear that many of our colleagues who have received this money are previous participants in the tournament as golfers and volunteers. I think it is a valuable way to grow as an individual, a company and as an industry as a whole. I worked at the raffle ticket table early in the day and I was absolutely blown away by the generosity of this year’s participants. Given the current economic situation, I think many people truly understand the importance of this organization and gave with open hearts to help those in need.
Q: How would you measure the success of this event?
Rich: I guess the ultimate success would be if we could have a Randy that was all Easter Sunday, no Good Friday, which would mean that to thank God we would have no recipients, no families in need. It may be naïve but it’s worth hoping for, right? To answer your question directly, the measurement of success is hard to quantify. I look at itfundamentally as I don’t think anyone comes to the Randy and says afterwards; Gee why did I do that? That sucked. I think we’re old enough and honest enough that people really enjoy themselves and feel good about participating. And isn’t that the best feeling in life, helping someone else?
Hillary: As a new volunteer, I think this event was a huge success. I am inspired by the willingness of our golfers and the generous donations given to help give to those in need.
Q: What did you take away from the Randy on a personal level?
Rich: For me it’s absolutely the recipient families. Myparticular personal relationships with the recipients are exactly that, personal. I can’t really express in detail what that relationship means to me. Although, I can say I’m saddened by the fact we’ve gotten so big in recent years that I cannot have the same relationships with all the families as I have had in the past.
Hillary: I think I was encouraged by the overall excitement of the event. Whether they were golfing or volunteering … everyone was genuinely excited to be there and participate in the day.
Q: What was your favorite part of the day this year?
Rich: I would have to say the first thing that comes to mind was Jack Berenato knocking in the hole-in-one and winning the $25,000.00 cash prize. Jake is one of less than ten people (eight to be exact) that has been to every Randy event and for one of our original guys to do it, is just tremendous. Although, according to my math, Jake has played 64 par 3’s at 16 Randy’s, I guess it’s about time he knocked one in.
Another special moment was being able to give Reid Sherwood his original “Sponsor of the Year Award” from 2008. Reid is the epitome of the altruistic nature of this event. We love him and he loves us. And the last special moment was Big Joe William’s speech at the banquet. Here was a gentle giant of a man truly humbled by the magnitude of the Randy and his family being a recipient. I also enjoyed his speech which talked about how he organizes cleanup programs in his home neighborhood with other families, and how it is spreading throughout the city of Atlanta and its surrounding counties. I thought that was a tremendous message.
Hillary: Being able to meet so many people and witness the open hearts of those involved. Everyone at the tournament was there for one common goal – to help our peers in need. This event and meeting the people involved has made me proud to be a part of the tradeshow industry.
Q: (Since Rich brought it up) How did it feel to witness the first-ever hole-in-one during the RSMGC this year?
Witness 1, Tara Jung: It was very exciting! Teresa and I were screaming and jumping up and down! It’s the first hole-in-one I’ve ever seen, so I am not sure who was more excited us or Jack!
Witness 2, Teresa Whittier: It was so amazing. After having a few close calls earlier in the day, Tara and I were already feeling a little
hopeful that we could have our first Randy hole-in-one winner. Sure enough, the ball went right in and the cheers began. Word travelled fast as participants sped over on their carts to find out who the big winner was; Jack Berenato.
Q: Will we see you on the course next year?
Rich: I hope so. One of my many regrets is that I haven’t been playing all these years. In hindsight, micromanaging the placement of the players’ golf clubs and making sure the raffle was properly rigged wasn’t the best use of my time. Now if we could only talk Ted into playing, that would be great. I can’t begin to tell you how much he has meant to this event for the past 16 years. We’re also contemplating a venue change for next year, for no other good reason than we can’t Velcro on the 11 to our new Randy Berkeley hats.
Hillary: Of course. I won’t be putting on my golf shoes, but I look forward to seeing familiar faces again, and doing everything possible from a volunteer perspective to help raise money for this incredible organization.
Q: What is your hope for the future of this event?
Rich: My personal hope for the future of this event would be to bequeath this to the next generation. That would be a great legacy to hand down to them. Have Justin and Austin Smith, Tyler and Josh Peterson and my daughter Jessica take it over. I do see some inherent problems with this plan, the first would be that our kids would be in the exhibit business. I am not sure as parents we would encourage them joining this crazy industry. We would love to keep the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic going as long as everyone will have us. It is, in my opinion, the very best snapshot of our industry every year. We cannot thank the participants, sponsors and volunteers enough for all they do to make this event happen. Theirgenerosity in the giving of time, resources andreal emotion is what made this the success it is.
Hillary: That this event will grow year after year and we will be able to raise enough money to help our industry families when the need arises. It is truly a wonderful event that I hope to be a part of for many years to come.
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