SJSU students stay busy at week-long Pebble Beach tournament

During an unseasonably warm week in Carmel, 35 San José State University students were working hard to keep up with long lines at concession stands and meeting the needs of corporate clients at the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The hand-selected students undergo an intense training process, with managers from the beach-side resort in preparation of their week-long program as part of the Special Event Management Team course. But most of the students agreed that nothing quite prepared them for what it would be like to work the tournament.

As part of the Special Event Management Team, the students receive course credit for the time they spend in training and working at Pebble Beach. The SJSU program allows students in hospitality management and kinesiology programs in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts as well as some business majors from the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business to work as interns for a week during the prestigious golf tournament, which will be finish up on Feb. 15. The university has maintained the partnership with Pebble Beach Company for 10 years. Hospitality Management Professor Rich Larson helped to oversee the program, coordinating training, accommodations and serving as an on-site mentor during the tournament.

“Until today, I had no idea what it would really be like,” said Kelsey Castellano, a hospitality management student.

With blue skies along the coastal golf course and temperatures into the high 70s, many of the SJSU students kept on their bright blue Pebble Beach jackets that helped identify them as managers. The students donned white, long-sleeve shirts, ties and black pants. They were required to wear black shoes and most opted for a comfortable pair as they needed to be on their feet for 10-12 hours each day of the event. At least one student had resorted to using bandages on her heels to keep a new pair of shoes from rubbing on a blister.

Most of the students agreed the long hours and the tiredness at the end of the day was worth the experience.

Castellano’s first client had arrived for the Feb. 11 3M Celebrity Challenge, which drew crowds to watch a dozen celebrities play five holes for charity. Some of the well-known faces included actors Ray Romano, Josh Duhamel and Bob Murray; director Clint Eastwood; singers Clay Walker and Jake Owen; among others.

Castellano said she arrived at the Pebble Beach resort at 6 a.m. and she expected to work until 6 or 7 p.m. that night.

“I can take a break, but I’ll probably just eat what’s nearby,” she said, of a behind-the-scenes area where food is set up for a runner to bring up to the skyboxes for client consumption. A few shelves in the staging tent were set up with snacks for employees.

She said the best part for her so far had been the responsibility of overseeing a skybox for her corporate client.

“I’m in control of my staff,” she said. “They are asking me all the questions. Until today, I had no idea (what it would be like.)”

At mid-morning Castellano had managed a breakfast guaranteed for 60 guests and was preparing for a lunch for as many as 100 guests.

Marissa Giacomo, another hospitality management student, was busy managing a concession stand during the celebrity tournament as the five-hole play neared the 18th green. Her staff consisted of volunteers from the Carmel Youth Center that will receive 10 percent of the proceeds.

“Yesterday we were open, but today is our first full day,” she said, of the tent selling hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, snacks, soda, beer and a couple mixed drinks. “It feels good to know everyone has a job. I’m surprised at how open they are to doing things.”

She said she had learned quickly to delegate to her staff so she could focus on overall operations.

Alejandra Salceda, a hospitality management major, said she was still working with a client to make sure their skybox was set up to their liking before their guests arrived the following day for the official start of the tournament.

“It’s been really fun so far,” she said. “I’m just cleaning tables and counters – getting ready.”

She said she would be overseeing eight employees in two skyboxes.

While she had interned at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose and had worked as a lead before, she said the Pebble Beach Special Event Management Team was unique.

“This is completely different,” Salceda said. “I am the manager.”

The experience is so positive that many students who have completed the internship come back to work as temporary managers again, including some who have graduated and are working full-time in the hospitality industry. Several SJSU graduates said they coordinated to take a week of vacation from their regular jobs to serve as temporary managers at the tournament.

Erin Paxton, a December 2014 hospitality management graduate, said she had taken some vacation time to work for a few days at the tournament. She was overseeing a hospitality suite in the Pebble Beach Lodge.

“It was my first big gig, my first big girl job,” she said, of the internship last year. “It was the best for learning to deal with clients and to see the event side with food, beverages, golf. It was a very well-rounded experience.”

In a tent below the skyboxes, several students worked to prepare their set up for the following morning. Jaclyn Kyllo pointed out the layout of the room, where tables and coolers were set up for each client skybox on the 18th hole.

“We send a runner down to pick up the food,” she said, noting that utensils and plates were also organized in the tent. “This is also a good place to debrief, if you are feeling stressed or need an answer.”

She said she didn’t realize some of the smaller tasks she would be involved in, such as polish silverware or building racks to hold supplies in the temporary tents.

“It’s more than I imagined,” she said. “But I want to see the sunset on Pebble Beach every night. We are all in it together – the (35) of us so it’s nice that they believe in us to handle it.”

Hospitality students prep for Pro-Am tournament

San José State University Hospitality Management graduate Jennifer Hill is an assistant manager at the The Bench Restaurant, one of many eateries that dot the Pebble Beach Resort property in Carmel. For the last three years, she has come back to SJSU to train students as part of the Special Event Management Team program that will bring 35 students to the resort in February to serve as supervisors at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

As a student in 2010, Hill participated in the internship program.

San Jose State University students enrolled in the Pebble Beach Special Event Management Team internship class play a game that quizzes them on professional language.

San Jose State University students enrolled in the Pebble Beach Special Event Management Team internship class play a game that quizzes them on professional language.

“They really set you up for success,” she said of the week-long internship that requires intense training for the students in the months leading up to the Pro-Am. “They make sure they are right behind you, but they let you make decisions.”

The College of Applied Sciences and Arts Hospitality Management department has had a partnership with Pebble Beach since 2006 that allows 30-35 students a year to work at the golf tournament as interns. Pebble Beach managers and SJSU Professor Rich Larson oversee selection of the students, which includes an application and an interview with a panel of professionals. After being selected, the students participated in an orientation on Dec. 6. By the time the tournament starts, the students will have completed seven full-day training sessions on campus and at Pebble Beach. During the tournament, they will work up to 12 hours a day to keep food and beverage concessions running smoothly Feb. 9-15.

On Jan. 15, during their second day of on-campus training, Hill talked about why she came back as a trainer and what she learned from the program.

“I like their willingness to learn,” she said, “I can share my experience from a different perspective (than the other Pebble Beach trainers.)”

She said when she participated in the program, she had already had internships and had worked on planning weddings.

“I had experience with delegating and management so it wasn’t unfamiliar,” she said. “I think the confidence was the biggest thing (I gained.) Another is polish, professional language and how to problem solve – but the most important was confidence.”

Marissa Giacomo, a current hospitality management major, said she heard about the program shortly after she transferred to SJSU.

“I was interested in the opportunities that came with it,” she said. “It is a good way to get involved in the industry.”

She said during the first days of training they had learned about the history of Pebble Beach.

Adil Charki, a business student, said he had some friends who were in the program in past years.

“They really enjoyed it and said it was rewarding,” he said, noting that the students come from different backgrounds, including different majors on campus.

Dayna Miya, a hospitality and event management student, said she heard about the internship in her second year on campus in a hospitality class. She applied twice to the program before she was accepted this year.

“I didn’t really know what they were looking for,” she said. “But this year I knew the process. I’ve had a lot of experience with events for family and friends, but not with corporate and professional settings.”

SJSU students listening intently to managers from Pebble Beach who providing training for the Special Event Mangement Team who will intern at the AT&T National Pro-am in February.

SJSU students listening intently to managers from Pebble Beach who providing training for the Special Event Mangement Team who will intern at the AT&T National Pro-am in February.

On the second morning of training on Jan. 15, the conversations focused on professionalism for the students who will be tasked with managing Skyboxes and Chalet hospitality rooms for VIP guests along the fairway as well as other on-course food and beverage operations.

During their training sessions on campus, the students met in rooms in the Boccardo Business Center, where they transformed classrooms into a conference room. The students were even critiqued on their set up of the room’s food and beverage tables.

“For breakfast, I walked in and some of the set up was very well done,” said Jeff Wallace, the food and beverage director for Pebble Beach. “But the napkins and silverware – not so much. I noticed it was spaced too far apart.”

He advised that as supervisors, the students should seek out those with experience in table set up from their crew when they are setting up their areas at the golf tournament.

As part of the morning’s training, the students broke into groups and discussed the one most important thing that contributes to a customer’s first impression. The students mentioned such things as having someone to greet clients, cleanliness of the room, noise level, proper signage and directions, the flow of a room and how the outside of a restaurant looks.

Donn Achen, a training and communication manager from Pebble Beach, said it was his second year working with the students.

“It is important they understand how much their customer service skills come into play,” he said. “They need to listen. They will work with a variety of people and circumstances. They need to keep the same standards and values, whether it is a temporary or permanent position.”

Achen said the student interns are a critical part of the success of the tournament each year.

“They get a chance to work in a world-class hospitality spot and get coached by the best in the business,” he said.

Student profile: Nutrition student leads Chalets at Pro-Am

Rebecca Mockabee is the first to admit she doesn’t know all the ins and outs of golf. But for the second year in a row she will be spending up to 12 hours a day at the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Mockabee is one of about 34 students who headed to Monterey County Feb. 3 as part of a unique partnership between San José State University and Pebble Beach.

The Special Event Management Program started in 2006 as a way to give students hands-on, intensive training and to provide dozens of managers for the week-long golf tournament. The students have been undergoing management training with staff members from Pebble Beach since the start of January. They are spending the week of the Pro-Am from sun up to sun down providing concessions to spectators of as well as the corporate CEOs and others who spend time in the chalets and sky boxes along the course.

Mockabee is a senior in Nutritional Food Science who first participated in the Special Event Management program at SJSU in 2013. The program is run through the Hospitality and Tourism Management program in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, but the students involved in the program come from various backgrounds including hospitality, business, communications and sometimes nutrition.

“It really builds a bridge between being a student and being in the work place,” said Mockabee, of the program.

This year she will serve as director of Chalets during the golf tournament that draws up to 35,000 visitors in the course of the week, in addition to celebrities and golfers.

“We don’t get to interact too much,” she said, of the golfers and celebrities.

Most of her day will be spent in the chalets, catering to CEO and business professionals.

Heading into the tournament, Mockabee said she was filled with excitement.

“Being there is almost like my Disneyland,” she said. “Everyone is smiling and you are part of a community. Everything around Pebble Beach is beautiful.”

This year, the students used iPads purchased with a grant from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Dean’s Office that streamlined the training process. In the past, Pebble Beach staff members photocopied training manuals of up to 900 pages for 40 people. This year the manuals are in a digital format that can be accessed on the iPads.

Mockabee said she was looking forward to having the iPad on the course this year, rather than carrying around the huge binders.

Like many of the students who have participated in the Pro-Am program, Mockabee said she was invited back to help with the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival as well as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Mockabee said her own confidence grew when she completed the program last year. Since then, she took a job as a hostess at Mimi’s Café in Gilroy. Just recently she said she was promoted to assistant manager.

“(The program) can help you see what kind of manager you want to be,” Mockabee said.

Pebble Beach makes professionals of Hospitality students

While most San José State University students were still enjoying their winter break, a group of 34 students have been involved in intense training in preparation for a week-long internship at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February. To watch a video of the training, click SJSU SEMT 2014 Training.

From Jan 8-11, 30 students  and four student leaders attended all-day training where they learned the ins and outs of how to offer premiere service to elite clients, including the celebrities, business executives and others who attend the annual golf tournament. The students have three more all-day Saturday training sessions. Then they will be required to stay near Pebble Beach from Feb. 3-9, where they will work 12 hours day in concessions, hospitality tents called chalets and skyboxes along the course during the tournament.

Kristen Ridout, who participated in the event last year and is serving as the student coordinator this year, said the hardest part for her was knowing how to be professional, “not just acting professional, but even learning what language to use and body language.”

She said she was a little intimidated at first working in a skybox along the 18-hole course with corporate clients, noting that she met more than one CEO.

“It was a little intimidating,” she said. “I was young.”

Since 2006, the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Hospitality and Tourism Management program has partnered with the premiere Central Coast resort to create a Special Event Management Team made up of students such as Ridout. This year’s team includes mainly Hospitality and Tourism Management students, but also some kinesiology and communications students. The students serve as event managers during the event.

This year, the students used iPads purchased with a grant from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Dean’s Office that streamlined the training process. In the past, Pebble Beach staff members photocopied training manuals of up to 900 pages for 40 people. This year the manuals are in a digital format that can be accessed on the iPads.

In addition to the power point presentations by nearly a dozen Pebble Beach staff members on everything from food safety to human resources to hospitality, Rich Larson, an SJSU professor, used each day to teach the students how important details are to event management. Each day the students met in the Boccardo Business Center the students set up the linens, table skirts and created center pieces, with a different look each day. Larson pointed to the blinds in one room and said the attention to detail goes as far as making sure the blinds were all adjusted to the same angle.

Each year, managers from Pebble Beach are actively involved in the training sessions and they select the students for the team. This year, 72 students applied to be part of the program. From that pool, Beat Giger, the director of special events and corporate chef at Pebble Beach Resorts, said he and his staff aimed to select the students who would be the best fit for the event.

“We are looking for a certain personality,” he said. “They have to be energetic and outgoing. They will be working with a lot of older people who have been out there a long time. We need to pump them up.”

Giger described the partnership as a “win-win-win.”

“We would not be able to find locally 30 managers who would be willing to go through the training,” he said, of the 56 hours of training the students undergo.

The students who intern at the winter golf tournament often have the opportunity to return to Pebble Beach to work at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival as well as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Giger said the best students are often hired full-time when they graduate from SJSU, noting that about 15 current employees participated in the program.

Rich Larson, an SJSU professor, said many students who have completed the program find listing it on their resume gives them a leg up in job searches. While the training and the week at the golf tournament are intense, he said most students find it to be rewarding.

“They come in nervous and they leave confident,” he said of the training. “They get to the tournament and they are nervous again, but they leave confident.”

He noted other former students who graduated and have gone on to work with the 49ers football team, the A’s baseball team and Aramark.

“It’s our good fortune to be in proximity to such a well-known resort and golf course,” Larson said.