Falcons Rock the Ryder Cup

Two recent CUW Sport and Entertainment Business graduates have been working hard to help the Ryder Cup competition at Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI, live up to the event's world-class expectations.

Last we checked in with Brenden Lewison (’21), he had graduated in just three years and was heading to a cool new job working as an operations assistant for the Ryder Cup. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then, working long, hard hours using the game management skills he acquired working for the Athletic Department at CUW to help prepare the grounds for one of the highest-profile golf events in the world.

Brenden Lewison
Brenden Lewison

As a Falcon, he worked for the Athletic Department doing “game management,” which essentially entails doing whatever is required to get ready for an on-campus athletic event. It turned out to be a good skill set for what would have been an internship with the Ryder Cup in 2020. When that event was postponed until 2021, the internship became a job offer.

So what does a guy with small-school game management skills do for a global event like the Ryder Cup? Things like radio distribution, furniture set-up, golf cart management, assisting vendors, and whatever else they ask him to do.

“Basically, just anything behind-the-scenes to set up a world-class golf event and make it look as pretty as possible,” he explained. “Which is a lot of different small tasks throughout the process, but it all adds up to just making it look great.”

Not just pretty, but also functional and efficient. They scale of it all is amazing, he said, essentially amounting to “building a city on a golf course.”

Ryder Cup Whistling Straits Aerial

“Building a city on a golf course.” These aerial photos, courtesy of Stewart Design and the PGA of America, provide a glimpse of the magnitude of the on-course infrastructure built for the Ryder Cup.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” he said. “It seems crazy that in seven days [from the time of our interview] the gates will be open to the public. Compared to doing game management at Concordia, which I absolutely loved, the scale of a world-class golf event is a massive jump. From maybe a few hundred fans to 50,000 to 60,000 on any given day to watch 24 golfers play golf. It’s unbelievable.”

Even though the magnitude of the event is much larger, he credits the skills he learned at Concordia with making the transition a smooth one.

“Everything from communicating with other workers, to managing a team, figuring out where everyone is supposed to go, all that stuff coming together to get something done, it absolutely helped,” Lewison explained. “I don’t want to say it’s been ‘easy,’ because there have definitely been challenges and there is still some stuff I haven’t learned. But overall, the experience I gained at Concordia translated very well to what I’m doing here.”

A true team event

Michael Gray
Michael Gray

In August, Lewison was joined on the operations assistant crew by classmate Michael Gray (’21). For Gray, who hails from nearby Sheboygan, working at the Ryder Cup is less about a dream come true and more about gaining some valuable experience to aid his job search. Not satisfied with the opportunities he had after graduating in May, he is hopeful his Ryder Cup experience will open up more employment options.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Gray said. “I’ve been able to observe a lot of vendors doing their thing, and just having the opportunity to see how the Ryder Cup is being built has been great.”

With a high-profile event like the Ryder Cup on his résumé, he’s looking forward to landing an opportunity with an event planning or event supply company after his tournament run is finished.

For Lewison, the experience will likely change the course of his career. In May, he told us his dream job would be to work for the (now World Champion!) Milwaukee Bucks. More realistically, working in high school or college sports is where he saw himself.

Whistling Straits Ryder Cup Aerial Photo

And now? Even before the tournament has started, he’s fallen in love with the world of pro golf and would like to pursue opportunities on the PGA of America or the PGA Tour. (The Ryder Cup is run by the PGA of America, which is a separate entity from the PGA Tour.)

“A lot of people that I work with here have worked at PGA of America events before,” he said. “And there are opportunities within the PGA Tour as well. So that’s definitely a possibility, and I would love to go for it.”

Whistling Straits Ryder Cup Aerial Photo

For the short term, with the tournament finally underway, Lewison and Gray are looking forward to being able to relax and enjoy the spectacle a little more.

“We’ll still have things to do, and things to take care of, but the intense, fast-paced, on-the-go part will slow down for sure,” Lewison said. “We’ll be on call, but since the majority of our work is done, we should be able to hang out and watch the tournament.”

Not a bad reward for a summer of hard work. Now, if the feuding, highly favored U.S. team can just figure out a way to fend off those crafty European underdogs …

Brooks v. Kopeka

For more information about earning a degree in Sport and Entertainment Business, visit the program page at cuw.edu.

— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at michael.zimmerman@cuw.edu or 262-243-4380.

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