Not many insurance conference planners have extra time on their hands. But more and more are finding a few hours--or a few days--to participate in meeting industry golf tournaments, and not just because they're fun. "I get to know my peers, and the relationships I form with suppliers are extremely useful for future business negotiations," says Linda Cunningham, director, meetings and programs, for the American Council of Life Insurers in Washington, D.C.

Tournaments designed exclusively for meeting planners and suppliers are growing, says Jo Ann Hoffman, executive director of The Golfe, an organization whose mission is to foster camaraderie among meeting industry golfers. Hoffman is also president of the Meeting Industry Ladies Organization, known as MILO, which hosts the annual Meeting Industry Ladies Open tournament, also known as MILO.

"There are 60 to 80 tournaments out there, and people have to pick and choose carefully," advises Hoffman, who is based in Bethesda, Md. The first MILO tournament was held in April 1986 with 55 golfers and 50 nonplaying sponsor organizations; it has grown to 288 golfers (with no more than 50 percent suppliers) and more than 200 nonplaying sponsors. Although it's a women-only event, men do participate--as beverage cart drivers, scorekeepers, etc., and can usually join in for a casual round of golf at some point during the three-day event. MILO alternates each year between the coasts; next year it will be held at the Marriott Anaheim (Calif.) April 22 to 25, 2001. Get more details at www.milo.com.

In 1997 the sellout success of MILO spawned another women-only event, called MILI (Meeting Industry Ladies Invitational), that is limited to corporate meeting planners and suppliers. MILI 2000 is set for October 29 to November 1 at The Westin Hilton Head Resort in South Carolina.

Perhaps the most prestigious industry tournament is the Meeting Masters Invitational, launched by a group of meeting industry executives about 15 years ago as a way to recognize the top golfers in the field. The tournament has been managed by The Golfe (www.thegolfe.com) since May 1999. Golfers who win first, second, or third place at the 25 industry tournaments sanctioned by The Golfe are invited to play the Meeting Masters. "This year, we anticipate about 144 golfers," says Hoffman. "That is going to grow, because by next year The Golfe will be sanctioning many more industry tournaments. Our goal is to make the Meeting Masters Invitational the industry's ultimate golf event." This year's event will be held at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami from November 15 to 19.