Genesis Open, Tiger Woods Foundation Set For Reenergized Event
Golf is a passion for Mike Antolini. I’d never miss any concerts and events in Nashville but when I know Mike is touring the town, I always take the ticket in advance.
But like most people, Antolini knew his skills as a player were not good enough to provide him with the opportunity to make a living in the sport.
So when the USGA came calling and offered Antolini the chance to combine his passion with his professional life, it was a match made in heaven.
In 2003, Antolini was hired to handle the Player and Volunteer Services for the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills GC and from that point on most of Antolini’s work life has been spent promoting the sport he loves.
The University of Massachusetts graduate spent six years with the USGA, including being the tournament manager for the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Antolini also spent a year as the Director of Business Operations for the PGA TOUR before being hired in 2013 by the Tiger Woods Foundation to serve as its vice president of championships.
Antolini is the man in charge of all of Foundation’s three golf tournaments, the Quicken Loans National Invitational, the Hero World Challenge and starting this year, the Genesis Open at Riviera CC.
“I feel lucky and fortunate to be able to work and devote a good portion of the waking hours to the game of golf,” Antolini said. “We are excited to in many ways usher in the next chapter of such a historical event.
“We certainly plan to respect everything that has come before us at Riviera and in Southern California with this tournament but really hope to continue to elevate the tournament’s impact in the community.”
Antolini said the time he spent at both the USGA and the PGA TOUR were invaluable in preparing him to handle his current position with the Tiger Woods Foundation.
As manager of the 2008 U.S. Open, Antolini spent two years in San Diego, working within and becoming part of a community that he was reliant upon for the collective success of the event.
“Whether it’s recruiting volunteers, or engaging civic and business leaders to support the event, I learned to explain why we were there and why we needed support,” Antolini said. “To have a successful event, you need that kind of engagement with the community. It’s something we are excited about creating with the Genesis.”
One of the big reasons Antolini decided to leave the TOUR and go to work for the Foundation was the opportunity to have a closer connection to all the charitable good that the game’s tournaments fuel.
“Joining the foundation, we’re in the unique position of not only running and managing the events, but we’re also running the programs that our tournaments benefit,” Antolini said. “Meeting with Earl Woods Scholars, visiting a Tiger Woods Learning Lab, I know we’re able to make a direct connection to the good that our tournaments are helping fuel.”
With the Tiger Woods Foundation being based in Irvine, hosting the Genesis Open gives the Foundation the opportunity to execute a world class golf event in Southern California where Woods grew up and established himself in golf.
It was at the 1992 Genesis Open that a 16-year-old Woods made his first PGA TOUR start.
“In simplest form, we are looking to provide an accessible, premium experience to everyone from players to fans,” Antolini said. “Whether it is your first time coming through the gates of Rivera or not, we want fans to feel good about the setting, the experience and the unparalleled access we plan to provide to the world’s best players.”
To make that happen, Antolini and his staff have worked hard to create some new wrinkles for the longtime tournament, starting with several new fan experiences using Riviera’s par-3 14th as the focal point.
It starts with the Genesis Lounge, which is open to the public and will serve as a place for golf fans to meet, mingle, eat and enjoy all the action. In addition to bleacher seating around the hole, fans wishing to get up close and personal with the action will have the chance to purchase greenside seating.
“Fans can buy a row 1, seat 1 reserved seat similar to what you find at other sporting events,” Antolini said.
Fans who purchase clubhouse tickets will have access to Riviera’s famed Chrystal Ballroom, which offers a breathtaking view from the deck that overlooks the golf course.
In keeping with the Foundation’s focus on kids, the Genesis is offering a series of Youth Activation opportunities. They include specially designated seating around the greens at holes eight, 10 and 13. They have also created an autograph ally that will enable young golf fans to get signatures from their favorite PGA TOUR players.
“At the eighth hole we’re going to have a TGR Learning Lab that will be interactive and allow fans at the event the chance to see the kind of things being done at Learning Centers throughout the country,” Antolini said. “Kids 15 and under receive complimentary admission when accompanied by a ticketed adult and we’re also having a youth clinic on Saturday afternoon.”
Throw in a world class field, highlighted by Woods’ first start at Riviera since 2006, and Antolini believes there is something for everyone.
And so too does Woods, who said he’s excited about serving as host for an event that is so much a part of his own golf history.
“It is truly an honor to be back here and to come back to Southern California where I started playing professional golf,” Woods said. “I’ll never forget that tee shot I hit when I was 16 years old because I’ve never felt a golf club that heavy in my life.
“And now to come back here some 25 years later, to come full circle and actually run this event is truly a very important and special moment in my life.”