Earlier this week, the PGA Tour announced a completely revamped schedule for next year. And once again, the Pacific Northwest was nowhere to be found.
I mentioned it last year, but I bring it up again tonight with an interesting update.
To recap: From mid-February thru mid-September, the PGA Tour’s regularly-scheduled events come west of Texas just once. There’s no Tour event in Oregon or Washington or even Utah or Colorado - even after the incredible ticket and merchandise sales and turnout at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
I asked three-time major winner Jordan Spieth about this last week.
“I think everyone would love it,” Spieth said. “The golf courses up here and the weather, and not to mention the fact that this town is one of the best sports fan towns in the United States. This city – with the Sounders being the number one showing, the 12th Man with the Seahawks – they would love to have it too. Hopefully we can make that work out.”
Sometimes it feels like Seattle might as well be in Alaska or Malaysia to the decision makers at Tour headquarters in Florida, except...well...the PGA Tour is actually GOING to Malaysia next year too. And Korea. And China. And Mexico – twice!
Over the past year, I’ve been in contact with the PGA Tour about what it might take. After all, we haven’t had a regular PGA Tour stop here since the 1960s!
So what’s the hang-up with our local area? You might be surprised. It’s actually twofold: First, the lack of a title sponsor; and second, a major hesitation about interfering with the annual Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie.
You see, Boeing is not just the naming-rights sponsor of the Boeing Classic, but it’s also the presenting sponsor of an annual PGA event in Hilton Head, South Carolina (RBC Heritage). So there’s already a lot of money at stake. The Champions Tour doesn’t want a local PGA tournament to threaten a successful event like the Boeing Classic, and the last thing either tour wants is to invite potential consternation from a solid sponsor like Boeing.
What no one seems willing to consider is the possibility that an annual PGA Tour event here might actually help enhance the Champions Tour event, rather than threaten it.
Case in point: I’m sure the Seattle Marathon was concerned about the arrival of the Rock N Roll Marathon in 2011. But instead, both events have complemented each other, strengthening the local awareness of the sport – and boosting each other up.
Still, a title sponsorship for a PGA Tour event costs around $12 to $14 million a year – an incredibly difficult task. But we do live in the 12th largest media market in the country that has one, two, three... well...a lot of well-known companies who just might be supportive of helping host the best golfers in the world and gaining the appreciation of every golf fan in the Pacific Northwest.
But right now, it’s a chicken or egg situation. The PGA Tour considers us more of a threat to a Champions Tour event than a priority without a corporate sponsor in-hand. But trying to find that sponsor based on a pipe dream and no documented support from the PGA seems like an insurmountable task.
The reason I bring it up tonight is to quash common past perceptions – that factors like the weather, and timing, and finding a suitable venue are NOT the primary reasons we don’t have a PGA Tour event here. Are they challenges? Sure. But they can be overcome.
Frankly, this is do-able. The Seattle and Tacoma corporate community has the ability to support it. Now, it’s just a matter of finding out if they’re willing to step up – and in turn, forcing the PGA Tour to look our way.