In yet another sign of the times, sponsors for PGA Tour, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments yesterday announced that they are dropping their events.
US Bank announced that it will end its relationship with the Greater Milwaukee Open after this summer. The GMO (called the US Bank Open since 2004) is the tournament where Tiger began his pro career in 1996. I don’t think he’s been back since.
The Greater Milwaukee Open, however, went for a long time without a title sponsor before US Bank signed up in 2004. The tournament, which began in 1940, didn’t have a title sponsor until then.
On a more serious note, the Ginn Resorts Companies are ending all golf sponsorships immediately. That leaves the LPGA’s Ginn Open and the Champions Tour Ginn Championship without a sponsor. Ginn also dropped its sponsorship of LPGA Star Christie Kerr.
Last year, Ginn did not renew its sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s sur Mer Classic.
“This wasn’t something that was done lightly,” Robert Gidel, Ginn Development’s president and CEO, told The Associated Press. “We got to a point where we had to give up on hope as a strategy. We just now have to figure out what’s in the best interest of our people, and I think that’s where a lot of companies are these days.”
The cancellation probably hits the LPGA the hardest. The Ginn was the tour’s third richest prize, offering $2.5 million last year.
Ginn’s problem is the continuing correction in the real estate market. (Yes, it’s a correction, not a collapse. The influx of risky mortgages and low rates created inflationary pressures in the real estate market that drove price far above what was reasonable.). I actually find it surprising that that Ginn didnt’ back out at the end of last season.
But the loss of the title sponsor at the Greater Milwaukee is the PGA Tour’s fault. In scheduling the tournament opposite the British Open, the Tour had to know what the result was going to be. No chance of Tiger; no title sponsor.
In making yet another ascent of the Grassy Knoll, I have a conspiracy theory I’d like to share with you. I think that the Tour wants to kill the Milwaukee Open. Deer Park in Milwaukee is not a glamor spot on Tour (although I like the city very much). I think that you might see a tournament given to the Koehler course in Wisconsin—but in a better spot on the schedule.
I really don’t think much of the PGA Tour’s handling of its schedule in the FedEx Cup era. I’ll never forgive them for killing the Western Open—a venerable event that before the Masters was considered a “Major.” And the loss of the GMO also would be a historical blow.
One of the things that’s appealed to me about the Tour is the history. It was nice to know that Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Tony Lema, et. al had played in the same tournaments and on the very courses that we were watching today. “Over there is the spot where Hogan nailed the one-iron”; and “there is the hole where Palmer drove the green.”
In the brave new world of the FedEx Cup, there’s going to be nothing left of the past. The Tour will replace old and steady with new and glamorous until there’s no there “there.”