A Chat with Keenan Polan: Planning the Barracuda Championship
What goes into planning a major event? This week, Reno Tahoe Promotions sat down to chat with Keenan Polan, Sales Director at the Barracuda Championship, Lake Tahoe’s biggest golf tournament. Here, Keenan shared his favorite things about the Barracuda Championship and his top tips to make sure your spring and summer events run smoothly. Keep reading to learn more!
Meet Keenan Polan
Keenan Polan has worked for the Barracuda Championship since 2018, is originally from Susanvile, CA, and moved to Reno in 2007 to attend UNR. He’s always been a big sports fan, so for Kennan, “it’s really living out the dream, being able to work in sports.” After college, his first job was in basketball, with the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings B League Franchise. After 5 years with the Bighorns, he moved to the Barracuda Championship. Today, as Sales Director, he enjoys building relationships, connecting with people, and – of course – getting to talk about golf every day.
What makes the Barracuda Championship unique?
The Barracuda Championship began in 1999 as the Reno Tahoe Open, a nonprofit tournament giving back to the Reno and Tahoe communities. They moved to Truckee’s Old Greenwood Gold Course in 2020 and are excited to celebrate their 25th tournament this year, from July 17th-23rd.
One of 47 PGA tour events scheduled annually, the Barracuda Championship is the only to play a modified Stableford format – so instead of birdie being one under par, you’re getting points for birdies, eagles, and double eagles. “It really drives the players to take bigger risks, but with a bigger reward as well,” Keenan explains. With 106 PGA tour professionals and 50 European DPA tour players, Keenan is excited to present “a truly world-class event, right in our backyard.”
Over the span of the tournament, they’ve donated over 5 million dollars. This past year, their biggest beneficiaries were the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (45K) and the Discover Museum in Reno (25K). These beneficiaries were selected for their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work in affordable housing, ESL school programming, and Hispanics studies programs.
In addition to golf, there’s plenty more to the spectator experience. The event features a fully hosted, locally-catered food and beverage pavilion, integrating a lively social atmosphere with golf. It’s also a great event to walk around with a family, with chances for kids to get autographs, participate in swing tutorials, walk the course, and learn more about the sport. Each year, about 250 kids ages 5-12 participate in Barracuda’s instructional programs.
Sponsorship & Promotional Products at Barracuda
In 2022, the Barracuda Championship had a sponsor with naming rights for their public hospitality chalet. Anyone could go online and buy a ticket to this all-inclusive, high-energy venue perched right on the 18th green. At the bar, Barracuda promoted its sponsor with branded specialty cups. (Printed by Reno Tahoe Promotions, of course!)
Advice for Event Planners
“I would say, from an experience standpoint, it’s about asking the community what’s important to them,” Keenan Polan notes. Planning a strong event is about learning what’s going to be the most compelling thing to bring people out. Depending on the event, it might be the social side, supporting a cause, or a beautiful outdoor setting. It’s about knowing the best talking points for the give-back component and the best ways to highlight local companies and charities.
It’s also about improving upon previous events. Since Keenan’s first year with the Barracuda Championship, he’s learned a lot by asking participants for their input – from the volunteers who help run the tournament to sponsors and athletes – to determine how best to improve the onsite experience. As a result of these surveys, Barracuda has added a local, high-end restaurateur as their food and beverage host and improved traffic flow and shuttle services to create a smoother experience for everyone coming on site. Access to players is also important, especially for kids, and Keenan always wants to encourage them to “work a little harder and follow their dreams,” both in sports and academics.
Are you excited about golf? Learn more about the Barracuda Championship and how you can catch all the action this July. everything you need to throw a fun and professional event. From event supplies to uniforms to promotional gifts, we’ve got you covered.
Reach out to Jeannette to brainstorm ideas or get started on your order.