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Emails reveal behind-the-scenes efforts to save Colonial

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Follow along on the defending Dean & DeLuca champion's Sunday round of 65. Video by Matthew Martinez.
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Follow along on the defending Dean & DeLuca champion's Sunday round of 65. Video by Matthew Martinez.

Calling the Colonial Golf Tournament “a Fort Worth institution,” American Airlines confirmed Friday it will financially support efforts to keep the prestigious Colonial Golf Tournament as a stop on the PGA Tour in 2018.

“We are delighted to do so,” spokesman Matt Miller said. “Colonial is a Fort Worth institution and as a Fort Worth-based company, American is delighted to support the tournament in 2018.” He declined to disclose an amount.

Landing American Airlines support for the May tournament is part of a behind-the-scenes effort by civic leaders, including U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, and Mayor Betsy Price. Price was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Those efforts began as early as October after the upscale food chain Dean & DeLuca backed out of its six-year commitment to host the event, according to emails to Price and obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request. The request was made in November and the final emails were sent Friday. The city charged the Star-Telegram $95 for the public information.

The emails reflect how concerned leaders are about the possibility of losing the tournament, which has been at Colonial Country Club for more than 70 years. The emails detail the need for help in seeking corporate sponsors for the tournament.

Price and Bill Thornton, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to “a select group of community leaders” asking them to attend an Oct. 26 meeting at the chamber’s offices. The meeting focused on preserving “this city treasure.” The annual weeklong tournament has a $47 million economic impact on the Fort Worth economy, according to past studies.

“To be frank, Colonial leadership is seeking all avenues to bridge the potential financial gap for the 2018 Tournament,” the letter said.

American Airlines is no stranger to the tournament. For the past two years, the company has sponsored the American Patriots Outpost, which provides food and beverages to military members and veterans attending the tournament.

In addition to American, other Fort Worth businesses may be stepping forward to fund the $11.5 million Colonial needs to have the tournament May 21-27.

Friday, BNSF Railway spokesman Joseph Faust said the company “is committed to supporting the effort, and continues to discuss the sponsorship matter with the Colonial Golf Tournament’s leadership and other community leaders.

Likewise, XTO Energy spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said: “We continue to have discussions with organizers of the tournament about a potential co-sponsorship.”

And, AT&T is considering being a co-sponsor. In a Nov. 28 email to councilman Brian Byrd, Fred Maldonado, an AT&T regional vice president of external and legislative affairs, said AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson was reviewing a $2 million sponsorship request.

“My fingers are crossed,” Maldonado said in the email. Maldonado could not be reached Friday for comment.

Longtime Colonial member Marty Leonard, who wrote Price on Oct. 16, confirmed Friday that Granger offered her help in recruiting some companies.

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