SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- Six years ago, Sean Riley was working as a volunteer in the merchandise tent at the U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club.
Riley, 31, could not have known then that when major-championship golf returned to Sahalee, he would be running the show.
For Riley, who grew up in Washington and was a college intern at Sahalee, being the tournament director of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship is truly a dream job. But he is much too busy getting ready for the June 9-12 event to revel in that fact.
"You always wish you had more time at this stage of the planning process, but we couldn't ask for anything better," said Riley, who oversees everything that happens outside the ropes at the tournament. "The golf course is growing in absolutely perfectly, the structures being built are really impressive, and the spectator experience is going to be one that's unique and that people will remember."
Riley, who grew up in Kennewick, played four years for Southridge High School and was the team captain his last three years. Riley was drawn into sports at an early age as his father, Jim, was the longtime sports editor of the Tri-City Herald and is now a regular freelance sportswriter for The Seattle Times.
"I got a chance to experience everything, and there was one event that my dad and I always circled the calendar on, and it was the Web.com tournament at Meadow Springs Country Club (in Richland). I got a chance to see the behind-the-scenes stuff and the media center, and I just fell in love with it.
"I knew I wanted to be in golf, and I ultimately decided that championship golf was the best road for me."
At that time, Riley still hoped of being in championship golf as a player. He played for two seasons at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, playing well but "not quite good enough to warrant a scholarship. I just decided that the golf business was where I wanted to be."
He certainly wasn't starting from scratch. He got his first job at12, picking up range balls at Canyon Lakes Golf Course in Kennewick, and by 16 he was in charge of outside services at the course.
Riley got his bachelor's degree at Idaho in business marketing with an emphasis in sports management. Of particular importance to him during his time at Idaho was the summer internship at Sahalee, and working for Sahalee general manager Jim Pike.
"Jim has been a mentor to me since I was here, and we stayed very close," Riley said. "I'm ecstatic to be back. Being here as an intern, I understood how this club operates, I understood how the membership works, and how they host events. So when it came down to things like putting the pro-am together and the routing of the spectators around the golf course, I had a ton of experience."
A few years after the internship, while Riley was spending six years with the American Junior Golf Association putting on tournaments, he called Pike to see if he could help out at the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, which is how he landed the spot in the merchandise tent.
That experience didn't hurt when the PGA of America was looking for someone to run its merchandise show. Riley got that job in 2014, and a year later he learned the 2016 KPMG Women's PGA Championship was coming to Sahalee. He sent an email that day to Kerry Haigh, the Director of Championships for the PGA, to see how he could get involved.
His experience putting on events at AJGA and his experience at Sahalee made him a perfect fit to be the tournament director, and soon he was back in Washington, living in Bellevue.
He has not lived in one place for more than a year since his junior year in college, and he and his girlfriend, Riley, will be on the move again after June's tournament as he begins work for next year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club outside Chicago.
It will be hard for Riley to leave.
"We love the Pacific Northwest, and this really is home for us," he said. "If we could end up here permanently, we could certainly take that opportunity."
This article was written by Scott Hanson from Seattle Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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