Detroit — It was just after 8 p.m. Sunday, and the sun was setting on Detroit Golf Club and the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic. But the party raged on over on the clubhouse patio, where champion Nate Lashley and dozens of friends, family and club members celebrated his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour with beers. Lots of beers.
A couple hundred yards away, Jay Farner stood and reflected on what most — from the players to the fans to tournament officials — have almost universally described as a great week in Detroit.
"I was super impressed with everybody, and the amount of effort and care — the volunteers in particular," said Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, and the company face behind bringing the tournament to Detroit — along with company founder Dan Gilbert, it's been a vision for more than five years. "People are working so hard because they care so much about the city and putting on a great event.
"The level of effort was unbelievable."
The tournament featured about 2,000 volunteers (each of whom paid $75 to volunteer), 156 of the world's best golfers, and tens of thousands of fans, perhaps as many as 80,000, though the PGA Tour doesn't release official totals anymore.
Players talked all week about how great the crowds were. Some said the Tuesday practice-round crowds were on par with what they typically see on Thursdays for most tournament weeks. Last week's Thursday crowd was said to be among the biggest on Tour for an opening round, outside of the majors.
The crowd doubled from Thursday to Friday, then doubled again from Friday to Saturday. Sunday's crowd was best of all. Saturday and Sunday sold out.
Brian Stuard, a Jackson native, shot a final-round 68 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and tied for fifth at Detroit Golf Club. He met the media late Sunday. The Detroit News
"The crowds were great, the players were great," Farner said. "It started on Tuesday. And it demonstrates the demand for the PGA (Tour) to be here in Detroit."
The PGA Tour and Quicken have been talking about this move for years, and it started when Quicken agreed to be the title sponsor of The National in Washington, D.C., five years ago with the understanding that eventually, the tournament, or any tournament really, would eventually make its way to Detroit.
The agreement finally was completed last year, and it's a four-year deal, though most PGA Tour tournaments last a whole lot longer than that. The old Buick Open was in suburban Flint for 50 years, and only folded because of the auto-industry collapse.
Quicken has long-term plans for this tournament, which doesn't come cheap to the company. It's anywhere from $7 million to $10 million to be a title sponsor on Tour.
And while things went well this week, there's always room for improvement, Farner said.
"We're obviously celebrating what we think went very, very well," said Farner, whose good friend and company founder, Gilbert, is said to remain in in-patient care following a May stroke. He was unable to attend the tournament this week, but received regular updates on how things were going. "And we've got a laundry list of things we can improve upon.
"We're also talking about how we can engage with the charitable organizations year-round, to make sure there's that touch with the community day in and day out.
"Like anything else we're working on, especially anything Dan's leading, you start, you learn, and you keep engaging, and you keep getting better each and every day."