University of Wisconsin-Stout

June 8, 2010

When UW-Stout alumni Ken Fournier Jr. and Nick Franzen traveled to Pebble Beach Golf Links in early June, one of the first things they did was get a photo of themselves on the picturesque 18th tee, with the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rocks below them.

Fournier and Franzen are big golf fans, to be sure, but they didn’t make the trip to California as tourists. Pebble Beach will be the site of their office this month as they help prepare the famous course for the 110th U.S. Open, scheduled June 17-20.

Fournier and Franzen are managers for Event Solutions, a Sheboygan, Wis.-based company that will provide on-course signage for the national championship. They will be at Pebble Beach for about four weeks.

While both men are excited about spending part of their summer along the California coast, the U.S. Open is just one event on their busy golf tournament schedule. Event Solutions recently was in Denver for the Senior PGA Championship, in Mississippi for a PGA Senior Tour event and in August will be in Sheboygan for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, seven miles from the company’s home office.

“I can’t get enough of golf,” said Fournier, an Eau Claire native and 2004 UW-Stout graduate in graphic communications management. “This is my dream job.”

“We both just have a huge passion for golf,” said Franzen, a Sheboygan native and 2006 UW-Stout graduate in business administration, with a technical component in graphic communications management.

The friends and co-workers met at UW-Stout and, since graduating, have worked at Event Solutions, a subsidiary of Franzen Graphics, which is owned by Nick Franzen’s father, Craig Franzen. Both also are on the advisory board for UW-Stout’s golf enterprise management program, which in 2004 began preparing students for careers in the golf industry.

Franzen says their work is part of a niche market but one that the company has served well, based on its list of clients. While Event Solutions now focuses mostly on golf tournaments — it has done four Ryder Cups, eight U.S. Opens, 18 PGA Championships and numerous PGA Tour events — it also has worked 18 NBA All-Star games.

Event Solutions provides, installs and often custom makes most signs, logos, banners and flags at golf tournaments, totaling 3,000 to 5,000 per event. Among them are full-color banners with oversize photos of past champions that greet fans at the gates, down to small signs on posts that tell fans how to get to the nearest restroom or concession stand. The signs guide up to 40,000 fans and players around the course each day of the four-day tournaments, along with pre-tournament practice rounds that draw thousands of fans.

“We’re known as the sign guys on site. We polish the event,” Fournier said. “It’s a lot of work. We put in long hours and we get good tans.”

Their work can change daily with the weather. In Denver, for example, 50 mph winds forced Fournier to take down many signs several days before the tournament began until the weather cleared. They work out of a trailer compound on the course and are in radio contact with tournament officials.

Event Solutions has a graphics shop and large inventory of signs, but it also has an on-site graphics shop and creates signs as needed. Fournier is the operations director, overseeing site setup. Franzen is production manager, overseeing event preparation from Sheboygan.

Franzen will be at the U.S. Open but doesn’t go to all events. He plans each job, starting more than a year in advance, and ships the inventory and equipment to the site.

At the U.S. Open, Event Solutions will provide some of the most visible signs but not all of them on and around the course, unlike most other events where it is the only sign supplier.

Both men make extensive use of their graphic communications education from UW-Stout. Fournier, who lives in Buffalo, Minn., has been interested in printing since high school, where he was president of a printing club at Eau Claire Memorial, made and sold T-shirts for sports teams and played on the golf team. He also previously worked full time as first assistant pro at the Eau Claire Golf and Country Club, under head pro Jim Julsrud.

Fournier and Franzen occasionally get to play the courses where they work and rub elbows with the world’s top players and their caddies. “I really enjoy the whole aspect of it, the beautiful courses and being able to see the tournament. You see behind the scenes, how a tournament is put on,” Franzen said.

They show their passion and knowledge for the multifaceted golf industry when they speak to UW-Stout golf enterprise management (GEM) students. Fournier and Franzen have given presentations about what they do and about other careers in the golf industry.

Professor Kris Schoonover, director of the GEM program in the hospitality and tourism department, appreciates the insight they provide students. “Our GEM students are able to learn first-hand from Nick and Ken about this aspect of the industry,” Schoonover said. “They provide case studies and contacts for the students to learn from, and they work in the event management side of the game at the highest level with USGA and PGA events.”

The GEM program at UW-Stout has about 200 students, who take classes on various aspects of course management, course design and marketing.

Fournier and Franzen said they enjoy being ambassadors for the golf industry and UW-Stout. “We try to promote the GEM program as much as we can. I know Kris is working hard to become partners with a lot of different companies and finding opportunities for her students,” Franzen said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there.”

For more information, contact Schoonover at 715-232-2364 or schoonoverk@uwstout.edu; or Event Solutions at 866-253-8368 or www.eventsolved.com.

###