National golf tournament may come to Cedarbrook

Officials: County tourism website needs search engine optimization

By Wendy Byerly Wood - [email protected]

Cedarbrook Country Club in State Road, just north of Elkin, has been approached about hosting a national golfing event in 2017, announced tourism officials Wednesday during the Tourism Partnership of Surry County meeting which was held in the Ross Room at The Liberty in Elkin.

Zim Zimmerman, manager of the club and a new member of the Surry County Tourism Development Authority, said he was contacted by Scott Walker with the National Women’s Golf Association about hosting a tournament, which would fill 115 hotel rooms with competitors for five days in Surry County.

Jessica Icenhour Roberts, director of tourism for the Mount Airy Visitors Center, said it could have the potential to fill 400 to 500 rooms when it comes to adding spectators and others attending for the tournament, which would be a Saturday through Wednesday event in June 2017.

Scott Walker of NWGA contacted Zimmerman after Cross Creek Country Club in Mount Airy turned down the opportunity to host the tournament, which is a satellite mini tour event, Zimmerman said. “It is a developmental tour. It’s secondary to the LPGA to test their game and see where they stand to make it to the next level,” he said of the tournament.

Zimmerman said the event will involve a local charity, such as United Fund, to secure sponsors and market the event and that charity group would reap the benefits.

“We would love to do it to promote golf, women’s golf and golf in the area,” said Zimmerman of hosting the tournament.

Part of what will determine if Cedarbrook chooses to host the tournament is revenue. Zimmerman said he needs to look at how much revenue the tournament will bring in compared to the club’s normal revenue in a week. Also, it might be an inconvenience to club members since the club will be providing food and drinks for the tournament.

“It will take raising about $40,000 to pull it off,” he said of the sponsorships needed to fund the event. The title sponsor is a $10,000 spot.

In other golf news, Zimmerman said the Golf Channel did a top 50 review on golf courses across the country a couple of weeks ago and Cedarbrook was ranked 15, while Cross Creek came in at 10. Also on Matt Ganella’s Golf Digest radio show, he was asked to pick his top four courses, and Cedarbook was one of those.

Another accolade for Cedarbrook recently was being named in North Carolina’s top 20 courses by Golf Advisor, Zimmerman said.

County tourism website key

“The website is the key to our future,” said Burke Robertson, chairman of the partnership board, during its meeting Wednesday.

In the past year, the group chose to do away with the site and instead use and since then, he said website statistics show a decrease in traffic the site.

So the partnership members decided to seek out prices for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing of the website. The three price options which were provided varied greatly in the services included in the prices, which made it difficult for the members to compare them “apples to apples.”

One thing that two of the companies pointed out though were broken links on the website and content not being kept up to date. So during Wednesday’s meeting, the board members decided to make Roberts the point person in charge of keeping the website content up to date and fixing the broken links.

As far as search engine optimization, the board felt more comfortable with quotes from Vannoppen and BigHouse, but not Wildfire. But they said they trusted Roberts’ judgment on which company would be best, and she said she would go back to the companies, and any others she might find, to get a more comparable quote.

One of the reasons Roberts’ believes there was a decrease in website traffic was the loss of an employee at Frogman, the company which developed the tourism website for the group, who had been managing their site.

The board discussed the possibility of hiring someone part-time to manage the site and be a point person with the SEO company, but Roberts said she believes she can handle it and to let her give it a try before any action is taken to hire someone.

A formal motion was made to request of County Manager Chris Knopf that Roberts be put in charge of the website, and it passed unanimously.

Signs going in the ground

In 2011 or 2012, the partnership approached the county and its municipalities about taking part in the National Scenic Byway grant program, and each governmental group was to provide matching funds, which each approved, reported Leslie Schlender, economic development director for the town of Elkin, and a member of the partnership board.

She said the group has received the grant and Elkin has been administering it, meaning it has paid for the signage up front and then the North Carolina Department of Transportation reimburses the expenses.

“Now we need to call in the matching funds,” she said, noting that three signs already are in the ground, one of those can be found in front of Dairy Queen in Dobson.

“Now the TDAs need to work to put more signs in. These are the first three, and then we need signs keeping people headed in the right direction,” said Schlender.

Future signs can be made at a cheaper rate than the $5,000 cost per sign for the first three if it is done by the North Carolina prison group, she said.

No action was required, since the towns previously had approved the matching funding needed for the project.

Other business addressed

In other business at the meeting:

• Roberts provided an update on marketing efforts. She said in 2015, 70,000 visitors signed the log at the Mount Airy Visitors Center. She said many visitors are coming from Canada and Australia, as well as Ohio, and they love food and wine destinations.

The area has been featured in Delta Sky Magazine, the Tarheel Traveler, while a piece in April on Carolina Business Review in Charlotte will feature the Sheltons discussing the wine region and market. Also, North Carolina Weekend is looking for stories, she said.

The Piedmont Triad Film Commission has been scouting the Surry County area for locations for movies and television shows, Roberts said

“Sonker is still a big hit,” she said, noting her attendance at the state-sponsored New York Media Attention conference, where most media there was looking for luxury dining and cabins. She said one story about Valentine wine gift ideas already has published. Outdoor recreation also was promoted at the event, and the only wine served at the conference was Yadkin Valley wine from Raffaldini and Jones von Drehle.

• The board approved renewing its audit letter with Martin Starnes and Associates which provided a quote for audits over the next five years.

• The Surry County Visitors Guide is down to 40,000 available copies, so Roberts said she will be seeking options on reprinting or some redesign and a new printing of the guide.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

Officials: County tourism website needs search engine optimization

By Wendy Byerly Wood

[email protected]

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