Doug Habgood relies on hundreds of to-do lists.

“Everything is a project. If we had one checklist, it would be overwhelming,” said Habgood, who is the new tournament director of the annual Principal Charity Golf Classic. “Sponsorship, marketing, volunteer, operations, charity. Sprinkle in players, competition and caddies and charities. It goes on and on and on.”

Habgood came to Central Iowa in August. He oversees all the details that go into putting high-level golf tournaments together.

“My job is to sort of manage all those aspects. I like to use my umpire analogy. So I like to think of myself or our staff as an umpire. What they say about a good umpire is if they do a good job you never know their name. When they start to mess up, now they’re in the news. If they miss a call or something like that, you all know that umpire,” Habgood explained. “If you do a good job, then the right people are rewarded and recognized ? the charities, the title sponsors, the players, the champions. It’s not about us, it’s not about me. Our job is to make all of those things happen, and stay in the background.”

Habgood isn’t coming brand new to the event. He’s helped with it the last four years. 

The Principal Charity Golf Classic is an annual and award-winning PGA Tour Champions event dedicated to investing in the future of Iowa kids. In 2018, the tournament raised a record $4,356,321 for charity, bringing the tournament’s giving total to more than $17.7 million since 2007, according to Principal Financial Group.
 
The 2019 Principal Charity Golf Classic tournament is schedule for May 28-June 2 at the Wakonda Club.

Habgood works as an executive vice president for the golf division of Bruno Event Team, a sports event management company that helps coordinate the Principal event. He’s been with Bruno for years, after leading a number of professional tournaments and spending a few years with Golden Bear International.

Until this spring’s Classic, Habgood will be dealing with a lot of lists. He sat down with the Business Record a few months ago and talked about sports event management.

Do you play golf? How did you go from getting your journalism degree to where you are?

I do play golf, but obviously I’m not good enough to be inside the ropes. That’s kind of how I got started. I played on the high school team. It just so happened that our home course hosted a Champions Tour event. Just convenient. I caddied in the Pro Am. I then became an intern with the staff that was operating the event, for free, while I was in college. Probably less than two weeks prior to my graduation, I got a phone call from a guy in Daytona Beach. And he said, “Hey your former boss told me all about you. I want you to come down and now be a paid intern” -- which was a big upgrade for me -- “and work on an LPGA event in Daytona Beach.” And that company that I worked for was part of Golden Bear International. My first job, I like to say, was with Jack Nicklaus. He didn’t hire me, but I was part of his army. From there, I really stayed in golf my entire career. I never left it. I’ve seen a lot of different tours, all the tours. LPGA, PGA Tour, Web.com, Champions, USGA. … It’s been something that’s been a passion of mine. I really enjoy being a part of these events and seeing what they do, not only for what they do for sport and history but for community and charity.

When you say you don’t play golf, what does that mean? Twice a week? Once a week?

I play probably 10 or 12 rounds a year. But I’m not out there constantly.

I’ve also found when hiring that hiring nongolfers is a plus. A lot of times we’re right there, our offices are right on the venue. You don’t want to have someone looking out the window wondering when they can go hit balls or start to play. When you have people who aren’t golfers, they bring a different perspective when you’re trying to market an event or find volunteers.

What do you like most about what you are doing, working in the golfing world?

I like that there’s a challenge every day. Some people might think, “Oh, well, you’re working on this year-round. You just kind of follow the same playbook every day. You look and say we’re 49 weeks out and what do we need to check off.” There’s a portion of that that’s true. But there are so many ways to innovate and change. I enjoy coming in and not knowing what’s going to happen that day.

Do you prefer to stay in the background?

We’re in the middle of everything, but I’m not someone who’s looking for the spotlight.

What are some changes that you’ve seen over the years?

It’s remarkable to see even in a 12-month period. Take for example Uber. Not too long ago Uber didn’t exist. Now Uber is an issue for an event. It’s an advantage but it’s also an issue. So can we promote it and tell people, yeah, it’s great, so they have better access to the event. But then you have to try and manage these Uber drivers that you can’t even control.  …

Every sport is trying to provide more for their fans. So what can we do? What’s going to happen to a 10-year-old boy when he comes out to an event? He’s going to be excited for the first 10 minutes. He’s going to be asked to stay quiet so many times that he’s going to be frustrated. He’s going to want to do something. Are there things we can do for families, for kids so they don’t have to sit on their hands the whole time? There are little nuances -- where bleachers are, what’s a restroom facility look like, how many buses do you have, do your seats have backs to them, are they in the shade, are they in the sunshine. These are things fans now come to want to have. But that’s fun. We’re not just watching golf, we’re watching other sports, we’re going to other events. We’re watching how people are interacting, what we can do to make it easier for them to participate. 

A big trend across a lot of industries seems to be making things experiential and interactive. Is that happening?

I think golf has a great head start. You think about one of the mainstays of golf is the pro am. Could you imagine if you were able to pay a sponsorship and do a shootaround with Lebron James before his game? These people are playing with hall of famers, major champions, new stars. I think that access is remarkable. … I think Principal helps us out a tremendous amount of support with our charitable partners, with telling a story, that ticket you bought isn’t making us or our sponsors any richer, it’s giving kids access to help they haven’t had before. That’s when we feel good. When we announce that number, that’s the greatest day of the year for us.

You moved to Urbandale from Colorado Springs. What are your initial thoughts?

I think this is a very warm and welcoming community, this place is a hidden gem. … There are great people here. The thing that stands out to me is there’s a lot of community pride here. It may sound like that’s not a huge statement. … But I’ve been to a lot of other communities that don’t have that. There’s a cool vibe about the city and the state. You see it everywhere you go. 

What do you do in your spare time?

I do like to ski. I did keep my Colorado pass. … I do a lot with my three girls.