Rare is the young golfer who dreams of one day running a golf tournament as opposed to competing in it, but such was the case with Florida native Danielle Carrera.
“I was 14 years old and had just started playing golf when I helped out a family friend who was running an event on the Space Coast Junior Golf Tour as a volunteer,” she said. “And I loved the job.”
Carrera could not shake her affection for that line of work even as she played college golf and captained the women’s team at Carson-Newman University and then began toiling after graduation as a teaching professional at the Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Indiana, which also happens to be the home track of the Notre Dame golf teams. Soon, she was working the 2018 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor, and then secured an internship with what is now known as Eventive Sports. That company ran the 2019 U.S. Senior Open at the Warren course, where Carrera worked on the management team. She later landed a position managing the championship’s volunteer program, among other things.
Fast forward to 2023, and the now-30-year-old Carrera, who is married and gave birth this past summer to a son named Freddie, is the tournament director at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, which is part of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Fall schedule.
It’s a big job and one that requires Carrera, who still carries a 2-handicap, to oversee a variety of tasks, from strategic planning and budget development to interacting with the title sponsors (Butterfield Bank and the Bermuda Tourism Authority) and attracting the strongest possible fields. Then there is dealing with the crises that inevitably arise. Such as the time before the 2021 tourney when a sudden storm blew the hospitality structure by the 16th hole of the Robert Trent Jones-designed Port Royal Golf Course into the Atlantic Ocean.
It also is a position that regularly reaffirms her teenage intuitions to enter that field.
“This has turned out to be all I wanted,” said Carrera, who was named tournament director in 2022 after going to work for the championship in 2020. “And then some.”
Born in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and raised some 25 miles to the south in Melbourne, Carrera was one of two daughters in a family that liked their sports.
By that time, Carrera was thinking seriously of playing college golf. “I also dreamed a bit about playing professionally if I could get good enough.”
“I was a gymnast for years,” she said. “I did everything. The bars, the vault, the floor and the beam. I loved it all, but then I started getting hurt all the time, so I gave it up.
“My dad was an athlete and played college football at Temple University, and he insisted I pick up another sport. That turned out to be golf, and I played well enough to make the golf team at Viera High School. We were undefeated my senior year and ended up winning the state championship.”
By that time, Carrera was thinking seriously of playing college golf. “I also dreamed a bit about playing professionally if I could get good enough,” she said.
Her first stop was Western Kentucky University, a Division I school in Bowling Green. But after a year there, Carrera transferred to Carson-Newman, a D-II university in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
“They had recruited me out of high school and were still anxious to have me even after I had gone to Western Kentucky,” she said. “I started to believe that it would be better to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and that they would be able to get the most out of me as a golfer.”
It turned out to be a very good move on a couple of levels. For one thing, Carrera was able to play on the Carson-Newman golf team all three years. And as its captain her senior year, she led the squad to the South Atlantic Conference championship. And for another, she received a first-rate education, earning in 2015 a bachelor of arts in business administration, majoring in marketing and management.
“At that point, I had lost any interest in trying to play professionally,” Carrera said. “But I still really liked the idea of getting into tournament management. So I asked my coach at Carson-Newman, Suzanne Strudwick, how I might find my way into that part of the golf industry.”
A one-time LPGA tour professional and the 1993 rookie of the year on that circuit, Strudwick had more than a few connections in the game. And she learned that the University of Notre Dame’s athletic department was looking for a golf professional.
“I was honest with them. I told them that I wanted to come on as their assistant golf professional, but I added that my hope was to run golf tournaments one day.” – Danielle Carrera
“I remember driving to South Bend, Indiana, the day of my college graduation rehearsal for my interview,” Carrera said. “I had grown up a Notre Dame fan. The first football game I had ever attended was Notre Dame-Navy. And being a New York Giants fan, my favorite player was Justin Tuck, who had gone to Notre Dame. I could not have been more excited about the opportunity.”
The interview went well, and the school offered Carrera the job.
“I was honest with them,” she said. “I told them that I wanted to come on as their assistant golf professional, but I added that my hope was to run golf tournaments one day.”
She spent two years at Notre Dame, mostly giving lessons. And it was there that she met the championship staff for the 2019 U.S. Senior Open. Soon after, she became part of the team that managed the tournament on behalf of the USGA.
“It was what I wanted to do,” Carrera said. “It was my first event, and it was a big one. I was very nervous but also hyper focused. I wanted to learn all I could, so I could do the best possible job. And I wanted to keep doing it.”
Eventive Sports wanted her to keep doing it, as well, and asked her to be the championship manager of the 2020 U.S. Senior Open at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. But then came the pandemic, and with that the eventual cancellation of the tournament.
In the spring of 2020, Carrera found herself back home in Florida wondering what she was going to do next, and that’s when she got a call from Eventive to get involved in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
“I came on initially as the tournament manager, and we held the championship that October,” she said. “I was named operations director for the 2021 event, which gave me a chance to experience something entirely new. Then the following year, I became tournament director.”
Carrera has earned much praise for her work since taking on the Bermuda job, which finds her spending about half the year in the British Overseas Territory some 640 miles off the North Carolina coast and the other half in the Tar Heel State, where she and her husband, Mason, have a home. Much of that comes from the ways she has more deeply engaged the title sponsors as she has grown the tournament by adding, for example, a new hospitality structure on the scenic Port Royal course for this year’s event, as well as creating a second pro-am because demand for the original one had become so strong.
Sometimes, dreams do come true.
Photos: Courtesy Danielle Carrera
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
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