St. Louis Character: How Alonzo Byrd is helping tee up pro golf's return to St. Louis – St. Louis Business Journal – St. Louis Business Journal

Alonzo Byrd’s career has placed him in front of some influential people. He’s crossed paths with famous figures such as Tiger Woods, Pope John Paul II and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Edward Heath, just to name a few.
The East St. Louis native began his career working as a journalist, penning stories for the Associated Press, Kansas City Times and Oakland Press. He would later transition to public relations, with a 15-year stint at St. Louis-based public relations agency FleishmanHillard and nearly 20 years working in public affairs at Enterprise Holdings. 
Today, Byrd is in a new field of play as the director of business development and community engagement for the Ascension Charity Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event that will debut in September in St. Louis. An avid golfer himself, Byrd is helping stand up a tournament that will be played at his home course of Norwood Hills Country Club. 
What are your main responsibilities in your role with the tournament? It’s twofold. Because I know a lot of the players here in the business community, it’s reaching out to them and assessing their desire to be a part of this tournament. They know me and I know them. More important though, in the work that I’ve done throughout my career in terms of public affairs and community engagement, that was an aspect that they wanted to do more of here at the tournament. They knew that about my background and thought, “Well, he’d be a good addition to help us in that area as well.”
What would you say the excitement level is for the upcoming event? There’s a lot of excitement. Golf was the one sport that even during the pandemic had a big rise and increase in participation because it was outdoors. In terms of the excitement for this tournament right now, it is a snowball. It is getting bigger and bigger. More and more when we see the major tournaments that have happened, like the Masters and just recently the PGA Championship, the phone starts ringing and the emails start coming in. We were seeing that gradually increase on a daily, weekly type of basis. People want to know more about it and how they can get involved from entertaining their associates or clients to families on how they can bring their kids out to this.
You’re a big golfer yourself. How did you get into the game? When I worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in East St. Louis, that’s when I actually started golfing. A gentleman said, “You know what, we have a golf tournament here every year and you’re the PR guy, so you have to play in a tournament.” I said, “Well, I don’t have any clubs.” He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you some clubs.” Our radiologist went to his next door neighbor, (professional golfer) Jay Haas, and got me a set of clubs. Believe it or not, three weeks ago, I was in Atlanta and I got a chance to thank Jay Haas 36 years later for letting me use clubs out of his garage.
You worked at FleishmanHillard for 15 years. What made you switch to Enterprise Holdings? The agency world is grinding work. It takes a lot and 15 years is a good run at an agency and I always thought my next step would be in a corporation. I had done the nonprofit with the American Red Cross and then the media stuff and agency stuff. My next step would have been to join a corporation. I had thought that I was going to have to leave town to find whoever that corporation was. But then I had a mutual friend who came and knocked on my door one day and said, “They’re looking for somebody at Enterprise who can help them grow their brand on a national level in terms of engagement.” That was one of my jobs, to really connect them to various organizations on the national level to give them some strategy, as they were growing and becoming a behemoth of a rental car company.
Who are your heroes? I start with family. They gave me that foundation. We would fight over who would read the newspapers when they brought them home, so they have a lot to do with the journalism part. When I look at my sports perspective, I was a baseball guy. Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Mike Shannon. Those were my heroes. Socially and consciously though, it would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
You mentioned you like to read. What book are you currently reading? “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson. I have also read one of her earlier books, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” She is a former Pulitzer Prize winner with the New York Times. When I got out of journalism, saying I’m going to get back in, it was her stuff that I was always reading saying that’s the way you do journalism. 
Title: Director of business development and community engagement for the Ascension Charity Classic 
Age: 64
Hometown: East St. Louis
Family: Byrd is married and has one child 
Education: a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
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