Editor Emma Ballard speaks to LET Tournament Director Pauli Van Meersbergen, to gain a better insight into the role and reflect upon the opening event of the LET season at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open

Welcome to our new 12-part series Inside the LET. Each month we'll be hearing from someone within the Ladies European Tour, to gain a better insight into the tour, the large number of stakeholders and partners involved and what it really takes to run a global professional women's golf tour.

A 19th Birthday gift of 10 golf lessons was all it took to help Pauli Van Meersbergen fall in love with golf. In her native South Africa, she got a job at a local driving range and has worked in the golf industry ever since, including one of her more recent roles as General Manager of the Sunshine Ladies Tour.

Now as a Tournament Director at the Ladies European Tour (LET), Pauli is responsible for the smooth running of a number of world-class golf tournaments across the LET season. One of those tournaments is the season-opening Magical Kenya Ladies Open, which took place at the beginning of February.

Editor Emma Ballard spoke to Pauli just before she jetted off to her next event, to gain a better insight into the role of a Tournament Director and the specific challenges associated with hosting an event in Kenya.

How did this year’s Magical Kenya Ladies Open go?

It’s always great to be able to bring golf at that scale to a country like Kenya, where we are able to showcase the country, provide work opportunities and hopefully increase tourism and grow the economy.

Having Shannon Tan, a young rookie, make history on the LET and for Singapore was the perfect start to the season.

How far in advance does the planning start?

With an established event like the Magical Kenya Ladies Open, the planning pretty much starts from the end of play. We've already had a debrief call. There aren’t normally many changes that need to be made once you have staged an event in the same place for a few years.

As we aim to get information sheets out to players eight weeks before, we would generally speak with the promoter again three months before and have a site visit around October.

What is the role of a Tournament Director?

We work as a team, so I always have a tournament coordinator that works with me. As already mentioned, we put together fact sheets and information that goes out to players. Once we are at the event, the team also consists of rules officials.

The Tournament Director has to oversee a lot of things. I am responsible for the scorecard, so I select the tee boxes that will be played from and the total distance of the course.

Two rules officials will go out and mark the golf course. For example, if there were an island green, we'd decide what colour marking we'd do, whether we'd do a yellow penalty area or a red penalty area etc.

I'll be in charge of making sure we've got the right set of local rules in place. Plus, the time allocation for each hole. Pace of play is probably the most important part of the Tournament Director’s job. To make sure we get players around the golf course in a decent timeframe.  The field size for Kenya was increased to 108 players from 96 last year with more effective pace of play management.

Magical Kenya Ladies open

What about at bigger events, where you may have stands and leaderboards?

At big events like Scotland, where we have big leaderboards and a couple of grandstands. The Tournament Director would help decide on the best location where it is out of play or won’t influence play. Where stands do come into play we would decide whether to include drop zones or not.

How many events are you responsible for during the season?

We now have five Tournament Directors at the LET. We average about six events each where we are in charge and then we attend another four to six events where we go in as rules officials.

What unique challenges do you as Tournament Director face at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open?  

Kenya can be quite tricky, for a start they have been building a road between Mombasa and Vipingo Ridge for the last 20 years and it is still not finished yet.

This means that we’re in a situation where we do not have access to certain things we would be used to at other events. It’s lots of little things which make it tougher. Electricity outages, which are common across Africa, can give added complications. But even with this situation, they are able to get things done and present the course in the best way they can.

Course marking paint is also tricky to acquire in Kenya, it has to be imported from South Africa or Dubai, as there isn’t a manufacturer in Kenya that supplies the correct brand. So that's quite a challenge and something the players wouldn’t be aware of.

The obvious uniqueness of this event is the animals. However, all the rescue animals are pretty tame and they can come up really close to you. It’s a great way to start the season.

Magical Kenya Ladies Open

What would a day in the life for you look like during a normal tournament day?

The Tournament Director and tournament coordinator always get to the venue at least an hour and a half before play starts. Firstly, we check that the facilities are open for the players, the food is ready in the Players’ Lounge, the driving range is set up, etc.

Then we've got the two referees going out to set the tee markers, make sure that the green keeping staff are ahead of the game preparing the course properly. They will check tees, pin positions, if the fairways need to be dew swept and bunkers are raked.

They come back and give me all the tee box and pin position information and I populate a spreadsheet that gets sent to TV to give them the exact course distance for that day.

We also have the Upgame App for player stats, so information has to be captured there.  There's a lot of admin that happens in the first few hours.

After that, I go out on the course and I'm a rules official and help with the pace of play. I also try and get every team member in to go and have some lunch have a little bit of a break.

Once play has finished, we check the scores, and do the reports which will get sent to players and the media team.

What happens once the tournament has ended?

We compile a couple of reports, internal and external ones which we will share with the promoter. This is not just something I am involved in, other LET staff contribute to them too. Then we’re off to the next tournament!

Have you ever had to make any difficult calls as a Tournament Director?

I have. The hardest part of the job is to actually make sure that you call an event before something happens, like an incoming storm. We don’t have an onsite meteorologist but we have access to one who would help me to make a more informed decision as to whether to suspend play and when to restart it.

Making tough calls is definitely the toughest part of the job.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy the pressure and I think I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. So pace of play is very important to me. Also, to get the team to work together as a unit and manage that together.

I’ve been in the industry for a long time, so it’s nice to be able to help the younger and newer staff on the LET. You meet so many people and see different places and I've made friends all over the world.

Did you miss part one of our 12-part series? Inside the LET: Alexandra Armas, CEO - read the full interview here.