Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, spring 2018

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52 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 LOCALKNOWLEDGE Steve John CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation S teve John assumed the role of CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation in December 2011 after a 25-year career as the owner of two Santa Cruz automobile dealerships, Ocean Honda and Chevrolet. After selling the franchises in 2010, "I tried retirement for about a year," he laughs. "I wasn't very good at it. I drove my wife crazy." When he was offered the Foundation position, he jumped at it. John oversees a year-round staff of 12 that stages two golf tourna- ments: the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the PURE Insurance Championship. The Foundation oversees and disburses the proceeds from these events to charities in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. While still in the car business, he served on the board of First Tee, a program that brings golf to young people who might otherwise not be exposed to the game. A Michigan native with an affable, approachable demeanor—and a more-than-passing resemblance to actor Michael Keaton—John is a life- long golfer, so this is in many ways his dream job. Prophetically, he played the AT&T nine times, first in 1994. "That was the only year I made the cut," he says with a grin. "I was never close again." Would he play again? "I can't imagine trying to run the tournament and playing. That would be a train wreck," he says. John brings to the table an infectious enthusiasm and a love of the game and of his community. Q: How much does the AT&T raise for charity? A: We committed $12.8 million to our communities in fiscal year 2016- 17—the highest we've ever achieved. The AT&T is the largest tournament on the PGA tour in terms of giving. That's quite a statement for a small community such as ours. An interesting fact about the PGA tour is that there is more money raised by the tour than by all other professional sports organizations combined. I think that says a lot about golf. The plat- form is perfect for charity. Q: What makes the AT&T so successful? A: We're lucky in that we have great partners and great golf courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. To have the tournament at Pebble Beach is certainly a feather in our cap. The relationships we have with the courses is very solid and we have long-term contracts at all the venues. Our year-round staff of 12 loves what they do and is eager to share ideas. Everyone's priorities are in order and they have deep respect for what we're doing here. It's a great team and we work very well together. We have 2,000-plus volunteers, many of whom take their vacations to work the tournament. They're dedicated, they work ridiculously long hours—sometimes in terrible conditions. They are so important to us. We couldn't do it without them. I can't control the weather, but I can control everything else. I've focused on raising the bar and the experience for the pros, the amateurs, the sponsors and the spectators. There are 47 tournaments on the PGA tour, so the pros have options. We need to give them more and treat them better than they expect. So, I go to other tournaments to learn what the best practices out there are…and then go one better. For everyone, you can do things without spending a ton of money, but it's about conveying to them that when they get to Pebble they're going to experience something they've never experienced before. And we must make sure we deliver on that. I think we've done a great job. In a way, it's like the game itself. You can't perfect golf. You can bowl a 300 game, but you can't shoot an 18 in golf. But we're always improving. Q: How about the amateurs and celebrities? A: It's a bucket list item for every amateur to play in the AT&T. There's a long waiting list. We try to get a good person who doesn't take their game too seriously on the course. We want them to play well but understand and be respectful to the fact that they're playing on the same field with people who are doing this for a living. In short: a good player, a good person. Spectators aren't going to pay for a weekly ticket to come out and see C-list celebrities. They want the best. And we try to introduce three or four new ones every year. We try to keep it fresh. At the end of the day, we've built a great professional and amateur field and our sponsors are pleased with their investment and knowing that their money is going to good use. Q: What are your plans for the future? A: My goal when I first came to the Foundation was to make sure we had the best professionals, the best celebrities and the best amateurs, along with the best sponsors for the AT&T. It's that blend that I think will continue to ensure our ongoing success. I'm not afraid of changing. I ask, "why not" and "what if " a lot. And I chal- lenge my team to do that every day, to constantly think of ways to make it a better experience. I just push the envelope to make it the best it can possibly be for everyone involved. Like golf, it's impossible to shoot 18; I think it's impossible to get to the ultimate, but I'm going to die trying. —Michael Chatfield

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