Alumni Spotlight: Lee Bushkell
UT alumnus Lee Bushkell describes his career path as a “string of fortuitous events” that allowed him to eventually become vice president and general manager of PGATOUR.com, the official website of the PGA Tour and the number one, golf-related website in the world. However, from the outside looking in, it is clear there was as much hard work involved as there was luck.
Bushkell grew up everywhere from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Germany to Milwaukee before his family settled in Knoxville when he was in the sixth grade. After graduating from the Webb School of Knoxville in 1988, Bushkell earned his undergraduate degree in art in 1992 from Davidson College. In a chance meeting with his former headmaster from Webb, Bushkell was encouraged to consider becoming a teacher. After taking the necessary classes at UT, he became an English teacher, teaching English in Maryland.
In 1994, Bushkell began studying web development and integrating it into his classroom curriculum. His students’ parents began to take note, and he began giving advice to them about utilizing the Internet and incorporating other technology into their businesses. Because of high market demand, he left teaching to launch a digital solutions agency based in Washington, D.C. After several years of success, Bushkell eventually decided that pursuing an MBA degree was necessary to advance his management career. Bushkell considered several programs before ultimately choosing UT.
“Donna Potts (full-time MBA director of student recruitment and admissions) really showed me what UT could offer,” said Bushkell. “She really got me excited about being back in Knoxville and pursuing my MBA.”
Bushkell began his degree in 1998, becoming president of the program’s student organization (TOMBA) and pursuing concentrations in finance and marketing. He worked under Dr. Michael Stahl as a graduate assistant in the Physician Executive MBA program (Stahl is director of the program) and, for his internship, worked under Bill Haslam (who today is the mayor of Knoxville) at Saks Incorporated.
“It was an amazing internship that really catered to my professional, developmental needs,” said Bushkell. “Mr. Haslam was an incredible boss, and I learned so much working with him.”
During his time working for Saks, Bushkell learned about the digital consultancy firm Viant, who made a pitch to build the new Saks.com website. Though Viant did not win the bid, Bushkell felt there was a great opportunity with the company, and he went to work for Viant after he graduated. His job there led him to work with clients such as Coke, the Federal Reserve Bank, Britain’s online lottery, and even NASCAR.com After spending time as a consultant, Bushkell decided to join a former client, Turner Sports Interactive, to manage the company’s digital consumer products. PitCommand, one of its core products, won the first-ever Interactive Emmy Award in 2003. After a period of time working for Turner, Bushkell was recruited by the PGA Tour, where he still works today.
As a golf enthusiast, Bushkell’s career with the Tour’s electronic media business allowed him to blend business with a personal passion. However, one of the biggest draws for Bushkell was the tour’s philanthropic mission.
“The tour has raised over a billion dollars for charity,” said Bushkell. “The company has great core beliefs that make this a very rewarding place to work.”
During his time working for the PGA, Bushkell and his team have created significant audience and revenue growth for the Tour’s digital media assets. He is responsible for the management and sales of the PGA Tour Network on Sirius XM (satellite radio); the tour’s mobile products; social media; and, of course, PGATOUR.com. The website has seen visitor growth of 30 percent per year and revenue increases of 250 percent under Bushkell’s leadership. The team received an Emmy award for TOURCast, an interactive fan-enhancement initiative. PGATOUR.com has received two more nominations since then.
Bushkell resides in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, with his wife, Suzette, also a University of Tennessee alum, and two daughters—six-year-old Isabella and two-year-old Sofia. Much to his dismay, his golf game has not improved since joining the PGA Tour.