Farmers Insurance Open | Wisconsin connections

From left, Farmers Insurance Open senior vice president for tournament affairs and events Andrew Harmatys of West Allis, Century Club vice president Barbara Savaglio of Kenosha and Century Club president Tim Young of Monona pose at Torrey Pines GC in La Jolla, Calif. The three Wisconsin natives each play a key role in the administration of the PGA Tour event.

LA JOLLA, Calif. — Tim Young will always be a Monona Grove Silver Eagle. Barbara Savaglio will never forget her days at Kenosha Tremper. Andrew Harmatys remains a West Allis Central Bulldog through and through.

However, their careers – not to mention their love of golf and a preference for warm weather – brought all three Wisconsinities to southern California, one-by-one over the last 35 years. And this week, these three "Cheeseheads in Paradise" are on the same team – the one charged with staging the Farmers Insurance Open, the PGA Tour event at the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Young is president this year of the Century Club, the nonprofit that runs the San Diego area's annual stop on the PGA Tour, and Savaglio is the organization's vice president. Harmatys is the senior vice president for tournament affairs and events and his duties include most, if not all, of the infrastructure items on a punch list for an event played over two courses. 

"It’s awful ironic that three cheeseheads, in their own fashion, have all come together in this place," Young said recently as the three sat around a table at The Lodge at Torrey Pines and looked forward to the arrival of this week's PGA Tour stop in the San Diego area. "It’s an event people now put on their calendar and work their lives around. It’s not just a golf tournament. It’s about coming out and having a good time and eating the best food San Diego has to offer. Obviously, I don’t need to talk about the views. They’re second to none. And it happens to be on a ridiculously hard golf course. The players love it on top of it. ... All of those things that are good and awesome then funnel back to the 10 charities that we work (for) and support."

How they came to be involved with an event that draws thousands of golf fans from the San Diego area and, the last three years, has served as the season debut of one Tiger Woods is, well, another story. Three, very different stories, actually.

Tim Young: 'Best decision ever'

Young grew up at Monona Golf Course and took his first golf lesson from then-head professional Tom Benson.

By the time he was old enough to work, Young was taking lessons from Mark Rechlicz at Yahara Hills GC. And, he admits, he was always "peppering him" with requests for a job.

"I ended up getting a job at McDonald's down the road from Yahara Hills (before) the golf course opened (for the season)," Young said. "Two weeks in, Mark finally calls and says 'I've got a job for you.' I literally quit at McDonald's after two weeks. That was it."

Young started working at Yahara Hills in 1986 and graduated from Monona Grove the next year. "I realized at a very early age Wisconsin winters weren't for me," Young said, so he put that reality to the test when he chose San Diego State over the University of Wisconsin. "Best decision I ever made in my life."

Summer internships at WKOW-TV in Madison, the American Junior Golf Association and as a driver for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile led to full-time jobs in the public-relations field with the San Diego Padres and General Motors. In 2008, he co-founded Southport Marketing, a company that organizes special events for clients ranging from Alaska Airlines to the Los Angeles Rams.

Serving as tournament chair for the Farmers Insurance Open for the Century Club this year is a massive responsibility. But, Young said, it boils down to just one thing.

"When it gets to tournament week, it's thank you, thank you, thank you to anyone and everyone," Young said. "The volunteers working. The broadcast crew that makes this place look amazing to the rest of the world. The golfers for choosing to come here. Their significant others for supporting them and being here.

"Fortunately, we get a ton of thank-you's back. We have volunteers (from other parts of the country) who volunteer at other tournaments and they still come back here every year. They just love being here."

And so does Young, famous – or infamous – among his friends back in Wisconsin for his social media posts of the first tee on the South Course at sunset.

"What I get back from my Madison/Monona/Wisconsin friends isn't always so pleasant," he said.

Barbara Savaglio: A memorable walk

Savaglio got her start in golf at Maplecrest Country Club in Kenosha, where she wore the title of "assistant to the professional" at the Leonard Macomber course that celebrated its 90th birthday last year.

"Basically, what I did was all the legwork for tournaments," the 1982 Tremper High School graduate said. "When tournaments were checking in. All of the groups we had going out. ... We had stuff going on all the time. I was helping with that."

Along the way, Savaglio fell in love with the game. 

"I really became passionate about golf because one of the perks when you work at a golf course, you got to play for free," she said. "I used to go and play with the pros. First, it was Bill Burgess and then it was Art Case. They were the two head pros. They tweaked my swing and, since that time, I've never taken lessons."

Marriage brought Savaglio to the West Coast and, like Young, she has never looked back. (Neither has her USGA handicap, by the way; she plays to a 9.)

"I met a gentleman who always wanted to move to San Diego and, two years into our dating, he said we’re going to go and out here we came," said Savaglio, who began her college career in Madison at the University of Wisconsin and then transferred to San Diego State. "I’m the youngest of seven and I’m the only one who flew the coop."

Young says Savaglio has the most difficult job of anyone in the Century Club because she is in charge of membership. That means Savaglio must have an ear to the needs of the 95 members in the club, which was founded in 1961 when the tournament was known as the San Diego Open and named because individual memberships were $100.

This week, Savaglio will return to one of her favorite assignments at the event as a walking scorer. "Phil (Mickelson). Tiger. You name it. I've scored (for them)," she said.

Serving in that role in 1990 led her to inquiring about the Century Club and what it does not only for the golf tournament, but for charitable organizations in the San Diego area. Some 30 years later, she couldn't be more proud of how the organization has positively impacted the San Diego area, especially at-risk youth organizations.

"To me, we’ve come a long way in our philanthropy toward children," Savaglio said. "Underprivileged children. We have 10 key charities that we assist and it’s all dealing with children. We make sure it’s about children."

Andrew Harmatys: 'Completely random' path to golf

Harmatys was a veritable child when he started working for the Milwaukee County Parks system, which manages 15 county-owned golf courses.

"For me, it was completely random how I got into it," he said. "We were bouncing all over the different county parks, but I ended up at Brown Deer in 1996 or '97, right when the (Greater Milwaukee Open) moved over from Tuckaway Country Club (in Franklin). We were always involved with the event, whether it was on the ecology side or, at that time, Milwaukee County Parks did all the grilling, all the catering for all the hospitality side, so I was always around it."

After interning for the GMO while in college at UW-Oshkosh, Harmatys went to work for the tournament on a full-time basis in 2005 as operations manager for what was then known as the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Unfortunately for him, the event would leave the PGA Tour schedule after the 2009 season, which brought him to the West Coast on a permanent basis as the operations manager for the Tiger Woods Foundation.

"The writing was on the wall," Hermatys said of the GMO/U.S. Bank Championship. "It was opposite the British Open. The sponsorship kept depleting every year. But then someone told me the Tiger Woods Foundation was hiring for an event in Thousand Oaks.

"Ironically, I was kind of a journeyman, too, even though I was full-time in Milwaukee. (Tournament director) Dan Croak would allow me to go to other events and learn what to do and what not to do. I was here at Torrey Pines in 2006 and 2007, just helping out. When I was here in 2007, I drove up to Irvine, interviewed for the job and ended up getting it. I (remember) just packing up my car (in Milwaukee) with an ironing board and my clothes. I didn't even know where I was staying on the way out here. I remember I got on Craigslist somewhere around New Mexico and found a lease for a couple of months."

Twelve years later, Harmatys is rooted in the San Diego area and in his eighth year with the Farmers Insurance Open. He has moved from director of operations into his current role, reporting to Chief Executive Officer Marty Gorsich and covering most of the behind-the-scenes activity for the Century Club.

Looking back on his journey, the 39-year-old Harmatys laughs and says the greatest irony is this: "I had no plans of getting into the golf business."

Torrey Pines: Ready for Tiger, Rory and Rickie

All three Wisconsin natives are excited for the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open to arrive.

Woods headlines another star-packed field that includes McIlroy, 2017 champion Jon Rahm, defending champion Justin Rose, Patrick Reed, 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker and 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari. Local favorites Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and Pat Perez, whose father is the first-tee starter, will also draw generous galleries at an event that has become as much a community gathering as it has a golf tournament.

"That's exactly what our (public relations) program is – 'Are you going to The Farmers?' 'Are you going to Torrey?' " said Savaglio, who knows the course will sell itself next year when the U.S. Open returns to the iconic South Course. "We're trying to promote Torrey Pines. It's become a little easier now that San Diego doesn't have a sports team per se. We lost (the NFL) Chargers so we don't have competition.

"I remember the days when the Chargers were making it into the playoffs. We were worried it was going to affect our tournament. Fortunately, for many years, our tournament was always on that bye week (between the League Championship and the Super Bowl). But when you've got the Chargers in there, people were still focused on that. Now, we're it."

The tournament has come a long way since 2010, when it was set to go on as the San Diego Open after Buick dropped its sponsorship following an 18-year run. "We still have clothing that says 'San Diego Open,' " Savaglio said. "It was a precarious time."

Farmers Insurance jumped in at the 11th hour that year and assumed sponsorship, forging a relationship that keeps getting stronger. A year ago, the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based company signed on with the PGA Tour for another seven years.

"I did go to the GMO and, when you're competing against the British Open, you're saying 'Where is this person and where is that person?' " Savaglio said. "It made it difficult to succeed. (Here), when you get a Tiger Woods coming to your tournament, you get a Phil Mickelson, you get a Rickie Fowler, who is associated with Farmers, and you start to say 'Our tournament has six of the top 10 or nine of the top 10.' It pulls people out here."

Now, they come for the golf and stay for the fun. And, of course, the weather.

"It's the experience," Young said. "Whether it's the activities Farmers has put together on the 16th hole. The Fringe on the 15th. The food people can enjoy here is very localized; it's not regular concession food. The Grey Goose Flight Deck on the eighth hole, which is open to the public, is packed all day long every day.

"It's just a fun place to be. That's what this event has become – a fun place to be."

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