Sanford's Podlogar has long link with Pinehurst

Jun. 11, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Sanford native Alex Podlogar has a unique connection to Pinehurst No. 2, the site of this week’s U.S. Open and next week’s U.S. Women’s Open. It goes back to his high school days on the golf team at nearby Pinecrest High School.

“We would practice here on Maniac Hill, which at the time you really had no idea how special it was to even be there,” he said last week, looking over the practice putting green from the porch of the clubhouse. “We’d go out and hit balls for an hour or two for practice and then start to walk on course No. 4 or No. 1 or something. But there were a few holes out there that were right alongside No. 2, so you’d kind of look over a bit and think, ‘Man.’”

Podlogar admits to he and his teammates having sneaked over and played a couple holes sometimes late in practice.

He doesn’t have to sneak around anymore. As the content and social media manager for the Pinehurst Resort, Podlogar has one of those special passes that lets you get pretty much anywhere. And that’s a dream come true for a golf fan.

Podlogar and his family moved to the area during his eighth grade year, and his father still lives in Southern Pines, so coming to work at Pinehurst was a home-coming of sorts. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism, he worked at The Sanford Herald as the sports editor and as a sports information director at Fayetteville State University before landing the job with Pinehurst two years ago.

Podlogar labels his job as “free advertising” for the resort.

“Social media is an opportunity for us to engage with the customer one-on-one, and it’s at a cost of zero,” he said.

On his first day of work, he started the blog on the Pinehurst website, which is now filled with posts about the multitude of things that happen at the resort, in order to use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to get information directly to potential customers.

Podlogar’s position is one which probably wouldn’t have existed five or six years ago, he said, and it’s a unique way to reach the public.

“Everybody has a website. It tells you how to get here, how to play here, how much it is going to cost, it gives you all those hows,” he said. “I look at social media as, let’s provide the window to why. Why do you want to be here? Why is this place special?”

He said the resort’s social media platforms have seen tremendous growth as a result of the emphasis placed on generating more content. The Facebook page has grown from less than 15,000 likes to nearly 26,000, while the Twitter follower count has grown from 2,800 to about 9,300.

Podlogar attributes the growth to the fact that Pinehurst is a publicly accessible course, and therefore people have emotional attachment to different things, therefore making it an attractive follow.

“Sharable content is emotional content,” he said. “People can see a picture that you post on Facebook of the 18th hole or something, the bunker in front of 18, and you can say, ‘I’ve been there, I know how hard that shot is.’”

Podlogar’s job has gotten much more intense these last few months with both U.S. Opens being played. He’s gotten the opportunity to interview a number of touring pros, including major winners Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Adam Scott, Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb, when they come to play practice rounds. Later that day, he’ll share those video interviews on Facebook and Twitter and they’re available to the world for consumption.

That’s been the bulk of his production work the last couple months, alongside a lot of media relations work. It hasn’t been a walk in the park by any measure, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“To be able to come back here and know and have a sense of what this place really is and how special it is in the world of golf is pretty exciting,” he said. “I literally make sure I do not take for granted walking into work and walking out of work every day. I walk through that hallway every single day, I think about who else has walked that hallway. For somebody who follows sports, who’s always followed golf, who’s always played golf, it’s ideal.”

He also doesn’t have to sneak around rangers anymore.