Fans attending the 2018 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, scheduled for Sept. 20-23, will encounter two major changes to the event regarding parking and where the general public will enter the grounds.
As usual, parking for the practice round on Wednesday and the first two rounds of the tournament Thursday and Friday will be at the lot adjacent to the Georgia State football stadium, known to most area residents as Turner Field, the former home of the Atlanta Braves.
However, because Georgia State is playing a football game on Saturday of the tournament, parking over the weekend will be at Lakewood Amphitheater, one of Atlanta’s primary concert sites. Lakewood is located a little south of downtown Atlanta, and for those who live in the suburbs north and east of the city, they will likely need to allot more time for their trip to the tournament to arrive at their preferred time.
The shuttle buses that will take the spectators to East Lake will drop them off at a different spot than those who have attended the tournament in the past are accustomed to. Instead of being dropped off at the main entrance gate to East Lake on Alston Rd., spectators will enter the course from Glenwood Ave. behind the 14th green and 15th tee.
This will offer the spectators a different view of the clubhouse, which is located a short distance from the island green 15th just across the lake that gives the course its name.
Allison Fillmore, the new Executive Director of the Tour Championship, says the change was designed in part “to spread the folks out on the course a little more and so they could see more of the course.”
The new entrance is a short walk from the ninth and 18th greens and 10th tee, as well as the seventh green and eighth tee. The nines for the tournament were flipped a few years ago, with the island green 15th and the par-5 18th providing a more dramatic finish than the previous routing, which concluded with a long and demanding par-3.
Fillmore is assuming the position of Executive Director at a time of some significant changes to the tournament, which will move from its mid-to-late September dates of recent years to late August next year.
The change was made by the PGA Tour to allow the Tour Championship to be held without a conflict from college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday. Next year’s tournament will end on the Sunday a week before Labor Day weekend.
“We will now own August,” says Fillmore, who will be glad to get away from football both from a public interest and logistical standpoint. Tour Championship spectators will not only have to park farther away from the site on the weekend this year, but they will also have to deal with traffic on Sunday from the Saints-Falcons game, which will be played at 1 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Things won’t be much better on Saturday, with Georgia Tech joining Georgia State in having a home game at a time to be determined against ACC powerhouse Clemson. With the Braves at home for a 4-game series beginning Thursday with the Phillies, it will be one of the most jam-packed weeks of sports in Atlanta history.
“Just one more year,” Fillmore sighed.
Fillmore is very familiar with Atlanta sports, having worked for several of the city’s sports franchises since moving to the area in 2002. She has worked with the Falcons, Atlanta Dream and Georgia Force, and also did a stint with NASCAR for the event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Her husband came to Atlanta to work for the Thrashers, and also worked for the Braves before landing his current job with Live Nation.
Fillmore joined the Tour Championship staff last year as the Senior Director of Sales, and when Executive Director Tom Clark stepped down from his position after six years, she was selected to replace him.
With 15 years of experience working in sports in Atlanta, Fillmore said she had “a lot of connections” locally, which made her a good fit for the Tour Championship job even though she had never worked in golf previously.
Working on the Tour Championship staff is most comparable to her work with Atlanta’s NASCAR event, and Fillmore said the two are “a little different but very similar. It’s not as different as many would think.
“The biggest difference for me is that I’m accustomed to working in a brick and mortar situation. In golf, you have to build all the structures. It’s a fun challenge to see everything built before your eyes over a two-and-a-half month span.”
While she says she still helps out with sales, Fillmore’s primary role as Executive Director is to coordinate the event and “focus on all aspects” of the Tour Championship.
Among the discoveries Fillmore has made about her new job is the “phenomenal local support and the impact on the community from the Tour Championship. It touches so many lives in the area.”
With just a few weeks left before the tournament, Fillmore and the Tour Championship staff are putting the finishing touches on the event, but have their eye on a developing situation that could significantly impact late ticket sales.
Tiger Woods last played in the Tour Championship in 2013, and has been absent from the field at East Lake six times over the past eight years. After finishing the regular season 20th in the FedExCup standings, Woods is 25th going to the final Playoffs event this week in Philadelphia. He needs to stay, inside the top 30 to make it back to the Tour Championship.
“Ticket sales were up substantially,” Fillmore says, even before Tiger’s highly-touted recent runs at victory in the British Open and PGA Championship. Some of the hospitality venues are close to selling out, but spectator tickets remain, although that could change quickly with a strong showing by Tiger week in Philadelphia.
Fillmore has a simple suggestion for those who would like to welcome Tiger back to Atlanta, as well as watching the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and two-time champion Phil Mickelson.
“Get your tickets now.”
The Tour Championship is a family-friendly event, with each ticket buyer able to bring four youngsters under the age of 18 with them to the tournament at no extra cost.
For the tournament’s corporate clientele, the Tour Championship has added a “1904 Club” this year to celebrate the connection between East Lake and the late Bobby Jones. The exclusive venue will feature food from celebrity chefs and an up close look in the clubhouse at the connection between Jones and East Lake.
As has been the case since East Lake first hosted the Tour Championship in 1998, the tournament is sponsored by the Southern Company and Coca-Cola.