The Northern Trust Open, to be held at the tony Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades next week, will have a decidedly Korean air about it.

The event, on the verge of being dropped from the PGA Tour in 2008, has rebounded of late, and now organizers hope to boost it by tapping into the region’s golf-loving Korean population.

In addition to embarking on a marketing campaign that includes Korean-language print, radio and TV commercials, a call center was set up to cater to Korean speakers interested in buying tickets. The local Korean-American BBCN Bank is a corporate hospitality partner.

Once at Riviera, spectators will have access to a vendor of Korean food in the tournament’s Grove area, making the Northern Trust the first tour event to offer a Korean food option.

“It’s really smart for the PGA Tour to pay attention to the Korean community because they are golf lovers and a lot of Koreans play the sport,” said Soa Kang, president of Adcreasians, the agency hired by the tour to promote the event to the Korean community.

That community, which numbers more than 220,000 in Los Angeles County, has been energized by a small but growing contingent of Korean and Korean-American golfers, including last year’s tour rookie of the year, John Huh. Huh will be presented with his award at a Feb. 11 ceremony at the Riviera. At least five Korean players are scheduled to play the event.

“If you listen to Korean radio every morning, they always mention golf because there are a lot of Korean players on the PGA and LPGA tours,” said Caleb Park, executive director of community relations for the Korean American Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles.

The targeted marketing effort, along with a broad outreach campaign to bring in new sponsors and improvements to the Riviera Country Club, has helped the event see a marked turnaround.

Broad impact

Revenue and attendance have rebounded, helping Los Angeles retain an event that by one estimate has a $21 million annual impact on the regional economy.

“You don’t want to see an event go away because it’s tough to get back,” said Mike Bone, the event’s general manager, who added that the tournament had returned to profitability.

“The tour wanted to take ownership of events in major media markets and wanted to see this event become more prominent in the L.A. landscape,” he said.

Organizers of the Feb. 12-17 event expect that their efforts will result in higher attendance from both corporate hospitality partners and general admission spectators.


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