From caddy to tournament CEO, Nicole McMillan has done it all on the Canadian Tour.
McMillan was moving patio furniture, haggling with an office supply company for the use of a photocopier, kissing her baby goodbye, dealing with media requests and answering a barrage of questions from a number of her volunteer staff of 300 early Thursday morning.
McMillan, who is in her first season as executive director of the Players Cup at Pine Ridge, got her start at this tournament as a caddy for her husband and former champ Rob McMillan. She's now the top banana.
But don't for a second be left with the impression that her climb from looper to CEO has given the 31-year-old mother of one the idea she's above raking a sand trap or two.
"I call her Little Miss Attention to Detail," said husband Rob, who played on the Canadian Tour for 10 years before moving into the golf business where he now works for Titleist and is executive chairman of the Winnipeg tour stop. "We'll be walking around and she'll stop to adjust something like a chair. She's got the eye for it. Nicole studied golf management in college and has worked in this business from the pro shop at Elmhurst to caddying for me to running tournaments at Transcona with my brother Dave. She's got the energy and mind for this. This suits her well."
While the husband may be biased, Canadian Tour deputy executive director Dan Halldorson is not.
"She's doing a tremendous job," said Halldorson. "We've been working with her on this event for a while now and Nicole has a lot of strengths. She can really communicate."
This weekend is show time for McMillan and she says, after a lot of hard work, she's ready.
"First of all, you can't put on an event like this without support. From the volunteers to the staff here at Pine Ridge to the folks at the Canadian Tour, everyone has been fantastic," said McMillan. "We're so excited to see the players arrive and for all our hard work to come to fruition. These four days are the culmination of a lot of effort from a lot of people and it's great to see it all come together."
Those years caddying weren't all that bad either.
"It was the most exciting time of my life. Rob and I had just got married and we were excited just to be together. Once I got out there I realized at times it wasn't always glamourous, living from tournament to tournament and paycheque to paycheque," said McMillan. "But it was a new city every week and new people and now that I look back on it I wish I had taken the time to enjoy it even more."
Turns out those days on the circuit lugging a bag gave McMillan the chance to see things she liked and didn't about other tournaments.
"There were places that did certain things right and now that we're doing this, we're trying to bring all of those good things together. Mitch Zalnasky did a great job bringing this tournament to where it is today and we hope to move it forward," said McMillan. "We have ideas and now we're trying to make them realities. It's been a great learning experience."