MCDERMOTT COLUMN: PGA furnished exclusively by local company
KIAWAH ISLAND — Ken Bauer took in the organized chaos from one of the elevated hospitality suites lining the scenic 18th fairway at The Ocean Course.
On the emerald green expanse below, laborers, delivery crews, groundskeepers and walkie-talkie-armed supervisors scurried in every direction, all focused on making sure the famous golf layout is set up just right for its biggest close-up ever: the 94th PGA Championship, which will cast a bright global spotlight on Kiawah, on Charleston and on South Carolina over the seven days and beyond.
“It’s pretty monumental,” Bauer said Thursday morning as the critical final preparation phase kicked into high gear. “We’re just proud to be part of the PGA and representing South Carolina.”
The Isle of Palms resident and his locally based businesses, Bauer International and Bauer Hospitality, are playing a high-profile role at the championship. They were picked by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America to supply all of the furnishings for all of the corporate booths, where blue-chip companies such as Mercedes-Benz will be entertaining their best clients and rewarding top employees.
Bauer was anxious to get to work Thursday, but in his line of business, he knows he must wait for everyone else to finish their jobs before his team can finish theirs.
“We’re the last in,” Bauer said.
Golf by association
The 20-year-old Bauer International, which is headquartered near Daniel Island, has made its mark with its British Colonial-inspired mahogany and rattan furniture, a distinctive style its founder and CEO has described as “casual elegance.”
The majority of its clientele have been high-end resorts and country clubs, including the clubhouse at the Ocean Course and Kiawah’s posh Sanctuary Hotel.
The company began to carve out a niche in the golf industry about a decade ago after outfitting a PGA-owned property in Florida.
Bauer then scored the licensing agreement to become the official supplier of furnishings and clubhouse fixtures for the association, which is the representative body for more than 27,000 club and teaching professionals. He recently inked a five-year extension of that deal.
Another big break came when his company got the nod to supply all of the furniture for the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, also held at the Ocean Course. Bauer noted that this week’s event required about eight times more inventory.
The PGA job also got him serious face time with top-flight event planners from some of the largest and most image-conscious companies in the world, which he hopes will help raise the profile of the hospitality division he is building.
“Wouldn’t it be neat to do this once a quarter?” he asked.
Delivering the goods
Anyone fortunate enough to score an invitation into one the PGA corporate suites this week won’t find folding chairs or gussied-up card tables. Bauer International designed and manufactured with its factory partners in Asia all 3,000 pieces specifically for the tournament. It also used the same high-end materials as it would on any other project while incorporating elements that ooze of the Lowcountry.
All but one of the 20 containers that the furniture was transported in from Asia to the U.S. came through the Port of Charleston.
“How’s that for an ecomcomic impact?” Bauer asked.
By Thursday, every shipment had been broken down and reloaded into small trucks that could navigate the rural Johns Island back roads that lead to The Ocean Course. A crew of 25, led by Bauer’s right-hand lieutenants Rob Fifield and Shannon Brown, used oversized, makeshift wooden carts to deliver the sea of chairs, couches, ottomans and other items to their assigned locations for final set-up.
“It really is a total team effort,” Bauer said.
Leaving nothing to chance, he predicted he and his crew would be working through today to ensure everything is in the proper place.
“In 20 years of doing this, of designing, manufacturing and delivering furniture, we’ve never missed an install,” Bauer said.
He doesn’t plan to start now.
Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.