Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
PGA Championship tournament director Ryan Cannon was recently relocated to the area by the PGA of America to work on advance setup for the 2011 tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
DULUTH — In November 2008, Ryan Cannon relocated his family to metro Atlanta for his job. The Tennessee native had lived in suburban Detroit for the past seven years before his duties ended and he received his new assignment. He’d lived in Atlanta before, making his life a strange game of Pong between Michigan and Georgia.
He likes his home in Suwanee. A native of the South, he learned to loath the long Michigan winters.
THE CANNON FILE
Who: Ryan Cannon
Position: 93rd PGA Championship director
Education: Marketing degree from East Tennessee State University
Experience: Worked on the 2001, 2002 and 2008 PGA Championships, 2004 Ryder Cup and 2002 Senior PGA Championship
Family: Wife, Amber; children Kalie 5, Brianna 4 months old
“I loved Michigan, but by my seventh February, watching the Masters with snow on the ground, it was not a routine I was accustomed to,” Cannon said.
Cannon knows not to get too comfortable. By the middle of August 2011, there will be no more work for Cannon in the Atlanta area.
Unlike typical jobs with fixed locations, Cannon’s covers the country. Even when he moves on he still won’t be stable. Since he started work in Duluth he has moved offices once already. In keeping with his job’s style, he is working out of a doublewide, movable trailer.
But future moves and new homes can’t concern Cannon now. He has planning to do. As PGA Championship Director for the 93rd PGA Championship, Cannon must plan, build, market and run a weeklong major championship. He is the man in charge of finding room for 40,000 visitors to a private golf course designed for a limited membership. There will be 3,500 volunteers, countless venders and a throng of media. Everyone needs to park. Tickets must be sold, the event must be marketed, hospitality and security must be provided.
“All event planning takes place from our office,” Cannon said. “We have every bit the same degree of logistics that need to be figured out as any major sporting event. The difference is the Super Bowl and the World Series are played at venues that are designed to host the game. It is a bit of fitting a square peg in a round hole.”
The Atlanta Athletic Club projects a regal front. It’s an exclusive golf course designed to shelter its membership from the outside. To host a major golf championship, those barriers must be opened to a large mass. The Georgia Dome and Turner Field open their doors constantly. A guard logs each person who enters the Atlanta Athletic Club.
This won’t be the club’s first time hosting this event. The PGA Championship was played there in 2001. Cannon was there then as well. It was his first championship working for the PGA.
It’s been nine years. Things have changed.
“We can’t just hit the re-do button,” Cannon said. “We have to go back and look through the entire process and make decisions that are relevant to the environment that we are in right now.”
Talking about the changes, Cannon often returns to parking issues. The two main lots used in 2001 are both unavailable. One is now a water treatment plant the other a highly developed soccer field. Johns Creek didn’t exist, either.
“We rely heavily on the host city for things like traffic management, permitting, communications to residents,” Cannon said. “The community has grown up tremendously.”
All those are the reasons Cannon moved here two years ago. The three-year build-up is standard for PGA Championships. Cannon stayed in Michigan longer because Oakland Hills hosted both the 2004 Ryder Cup and the 2008 Championship.
A marketing major at East Tennessee State University, Cannon worked summers for a friend’s father doing general labor on construction sites. His combination of construction and marketing opened the door at the PGA. Plus he started playing golf at age 7.
“All of those things came together and it was a natural fit,” Cannon said. “Once I got into it, everything that I did I not only had a passion for it, but I had some reasonable skill to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish.”
With 13 months remaining before the championship, Cannon now works with a staff of four in his trailer and that number will slowly rise as August 2011 approaches. Cannon trusts the co-workers and shrugs off the idea of fretting about his firm deadline.
“There is nothing that keeps me awake at night,” he said. “We have great people doing the right things in various places. Once you have that put together it’s just work. You go through the process.”
The site changes every year, but the tournament is always played. In a way that is comforting to Cannon. He knows what must be done and his job is to figure out the best way to implement it.
“We want (everyone) to show up at an event and look around and feel like this has all been here forever,” Cannon said after he compared the on-site work to building a small city. “If we can set this up all up to where folks just show up and never think once about any of the behind-the-scenes logistics then we feel like we’ve done our jobs.”
Cannon doesn’t worry about where he will go next. He says that’s a concern for after the tournament. He has two children, 5-year-old Kalie and 4-month-old Brianna, and an “understanding” wife, Amber, but admits as his children get older, moving regularly is not ideal.
“It’s part of the gig,” he said. “The nice part is our championships are always in nice communities.”
Preparing this community and this golf course for this tournament is Cannon’s top concern. There is no pause or deadline extension. All his work must be done by Aug. 4, 2011.
“It’s not like we can tell 40,000 people, 1,000 media and 156 of the best players in the world, ‘We need another week,’” Cannon said. “We have to be ready on that date, regardless.”