By ALAN SNEL
Mash together a World Series of Poker competitive feel with synthetic turf, 18 holes, a putt-putt concept on steroids, a few drinks and the Strip’s skyline as a backdrop and you have a pretty good grasp of Las Vegas’ newest sports option — the Major Series of Putting.
It’s Canadian golf promoter Guillaume Beland’s attempt at bridging the big leagues of the PGA circuit with the hometown Americana concept of putt-putt golf. House techno music adds to the socializing atmosphere, where the perimeter of the greens are lined with a bar, lounge, and even retail pop-up tent stores. An emcee is offering some easy play-by-play, while a scoreboard lists your names and competitors.
Beland has spent $4 million on the concept, including $2.2 million on Major Series of Putting’s circular venue that encompasses a 60,000-square-foot venue on land he rents from Caesars Entertainment behind the Miracle Mile Mall parking garage a few blocks east of the Strip.
Beland said another $1 million will be handed out in purses after putting aficionados paid entry fees in qualifier Road to Las Vegas heats in 14 metro markets: Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Houston, Jacksonville, Orlando, New York, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.
A golf tourney promoter from Montreal, Beland pitched the idea of MSOP to Guy Laliberté, a fellow Canadian and founder of Cirque du Soleil who is the main investor. Beland serves as president and general manager of the putting operation, which has featured eight tourneys and more than 1,000 players culminating in a big $240,000 purse event this weekend.
The Las Vegas putting extravaganza is a temporary gig, which started Oct. 23 and ends Saturday and Sunday with the high stakes, high roller sweepstakes of $240,000, with 32 players vying for a top prize of $110,000 this weekend. The entry fee is $11,111, with $1,111 going to the One Drop charity. Some big-name sports and entertainment stars will add glitz to the event — former pro tennis player, Mardy Fish, actor Jack Wagner, former baseball pitchers Eric Gagne and Josh Beckett and poker player Daniel Negreanu.
During these past days, Beland has also invited everyone from the local concierges association to local golfers to give it a try. Eight corporate events have been staged there. And the public is welcome, too, as the greens fee is $35.
Beland said the marketing beauty is that it’s not a time drain on your schedule like a five-hour commitment for an afternoon of playing golf. He sees customers being on site for 90 minutes to two hours, with a span of 30 minutes to cruise the 18 holes.
“Nobody looks like a fool putting,” observed Beland, who is a good putter himself and conceived the concept while having fun wagers doing putting at the famed Oakmont County Club’s practice greens at the ninth hole six years ago.
“Putting levels the playing field,” Beland said.
The MSOP site is around the corner from Topgolf near MGM Grand, and the location would seem to serve as a nice marketing fit to Topgolf’s swanky driving range experience.
But Beland didn’t reveal whether the MSOP will return to this site — or even return to Las Vegas in general. He did say he is evaluating three or four other Las Vegas sites.
Beland acknowledged he has to beef up his sponsorship revenues, which currently account for only 15-20 percent of his revenues. He wants to get sponsorships up to the level of 60 percent of MSOP revenues.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com