No doubt Tiger Woods is the most recognizable figure at The Barclays Tournament this week at . The most important name you never heard of? That's Peter Mele.
The tournament’s executive director wouldn’t have it any other way. Mele is responsible for everything from parking and concessions to restrooms and seating, the machinery that seamlessly helps transform a golf course into a temporary city.
It will be Bethpage Black’s first PGA Tour event since hosting U.S. Opens in 2002 and 2009. Mele, 56, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., has spent the better part of a year making it happen.
“We’re thrilled to be here,” said Mele, who has spearheaded The Barclays since 1999. “It’s a special venue. It’s the best public golf course in the country. The players are so excited to come here to a man.”
The top 125 players began arriving at the Farmingdale course on Sunday and will hone their games until play begins Thursday. Gates open to the public Tuesday morning. And unlike a year ago, when Hurricane Irene forced organizers to shorten the Edison, N.J. tournament to three rounds, the forecast calls for a great week ahead.
This will mark Mele’s 25th event as executive director. He was a CPA in the Boston suburbs when he got his first taste of running a golf tournament. Mele volunteered for a Senior PGA event at his country club in 1984.
“I was put in charge of parking, buses, ecology and the caddies,” Mele said. “That was a my first job.”
He was hooked. Mele left his CPA job behind in 1988 and has been a player behind the scenes of golf tournaments ever since. He oversees a full-time staff of eight at The Barclays.
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And while he has a tell-tale tan of someone who spends plenty of time on the fairways, Mele admitted, “I have not played the Black yet.”
Mele walks the course restlessly, inspecting the flourishes that will turn the venue into a world-class event. On Thursday he gave Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, a .
“I understand it was loud here in 2009,” Mele told the local officials as they stood at the 17th hole. “It will be even louder here this year.”
He pointed to the bleacher seating with hospitality tents and video boards, which should make for a memorable fan experience.
A hospitality tent for military veterans sits on the 18th fairway. Mele was quick to connect The Barclays to significant community outreach, including an event Wednesday for expecting spouses whose husbands are serving overseas. Operation Shower will treat about 40 women to a baby shower.
Mele expects the four-day tournament to raise more than $1 million for area charities. Last year The Barclays brought in $1.25 million for New Jersey charities. And p for the local economy.
“Every course is special in its own way,” Mele said. “The best part of my job is knowing what we do for charity. That’s the most gratifying, the money we leave behind. Today’s difficult economic times and charities struggling for support, the fact we can do that – the money stays locally – that’s the best thing we can do.”
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