March 28 2018

MaryJo Loparco Talks Chubb Classic with Events Group Director Matt Hilliker

Golf, Experience What's Next, Crowd of 800, MaryJo Loparco

MaryJo Loparco, Director, Talent Acquisition

While volunteering to work the Chubb Classic / CME Group Tour Championship with Octagon, I had the opportunity to connect with several members of our Events team, including Group Director Matt Hilliker. From the greens in sunny Naples, Florida, we talked Chubb Classic / CME Group Tour Championship, Matt’s start at Octagon and the Events Team dynamic.

MJ: How long have you been at Octagon?

Matt: It'll be four years in August.

MJ: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you joined Octagon. 

Matt: I joined Octagon as an Operations Director. I used to work for an operations consulting firm that Octagon contracted with, so I knew some of the Octagon Events staff for some time before I was hired. When an opportunity became available in Naples to work with Octagon, it seemed like the next right move for me. Zero regrets.   

MJ: Let’s talk about your current role. What do you do as Event Director?

Matt: As Event Director, I manage two events for us in Naples: The Chubb Classic, a PGA TOUR Champions Tournament in February and CME, an LPGA Tour Championship event in November. But, while I enjoy golf, I wouldn't call myself a golf nut. What I really love about my work is event production.

Between CME and Chubb Classic, my overall responsibilities span everything from managing client expectations - ensuring that what is produced is brand consistent and meets client objectives, maintaining oversight of overall operations, obtaining sponsorship partners, building community relations, meeting budget and revenue projections and staff management. It's a lot to juggle and be responsible for, but I love it. In addition, I take my role as mentor and manager very seriously. Teaching and grooming our team is a critical part of the job. Every person on the events team plays an important role in the overall success of the program.

MJ: What’s your proudest accomplishment from either event?

Matt: When we first started, we were challenged to leverage the entertainment value from food / culinary and incorporate that into the event. We introduced a culinary element into The Chubb Classic / CME Group Tour Championship called FanFest. This was a one-day beer tasting event which attracted a few hundred additional guests to the tournament. Since then FanFest has morphed into The Taste of South West Florida which is a popular two-day food festival that features local restaurants and culinary vendors. This now attracts several thousand guests to the event and introduces a new audience to the game of golf. It's a great way to blend interests - you have foodies who get to learn what makes golf so enjoyable, and vice versa for golf experts. 

MJ: Why do you like being part of the Events team? What do you like about your job?

Matt: The culture. We're a family; everyone is always there for each other. Our team works hard, sometimes 12-15 hour days during an activation but we also make sure to have fun. And because everyone enjoys what they do there is an energy and passion that is palpable.

I also get satisfaction in doing something that benefits the community. Both The Chubb Classic and CME events incorporate partnerships with the local community. Contributing to this and knowing that what they do will have longer-term impact is rewarding.

MJ: What are the things we do that differentiate us from other event production companies?

Matt: We have a motto on the Events Team: “Every Experience Matters.” That translates to not only the experience for fans, but also for the sponsors, players, guests, vendors, sponsors, volunteers and staff. We treat everyone the same. By operating with this mindset, it very clearly impacts the experience for our stakeholders and creates a real difference in an Octagon-produced event. 

MJ: What do you think it is about golf that gets people excited? What attracts fans?

Matt: I think that solo sports – where the player is solely responsible for everything that happens (versus a team dynamic) – can increase the pressure and stakes. You see similar levels of interest in those who enjoy singles tennis. 

MJ: If you could be doing anything else, what would it be?

Matt: The cliché answer would be playing golf, but to be honest, probably anything except that.

MJ: Favorite PGA or LPGA player?

Matt:  PGA, David Frost – he’s been a good friend of the event. And Morgan Pressel for LPGA.

MJ: What your favorite Tournament?

Matt: I have the most history with the  Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G, having been involved with that event over the past decade.

MJ: And your best moment in golf?

Matt: For me, personally it was two moments 1) when I chipped for an eagle, 70 yards out on a Par 4 (which will likely never happen again) and 2) when I came just 7 inches from a hole-in-one.

MJ: To close, any words that you or your coworkers would use to describe you?

Matt: Off the top of my head? Family-oriented, honest, caring, hardworking, dedicated.

MJ: Any words of advice?

Matt: Work hard, stay organized, have fun. Truly appreciate the opportunities that are presented to you. Don't take anything for granted, but don't be afraid to go after what you want. 



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