Golf

Colonial gaining momentum at securing its PGA Tour future

pmoseley@star-telegram.com

The Dec. 1 deadline for Colonial to secure the necessary funds to ensure its 2018 PGA Tour date was much ado about nothing.

The deadline, as it turns out, was more of a hopeful guideline than anything else.

Nonetheless, city, club and Tour officials have been working for several weeks to secure the money needed for the annual PGA Tour stop to go ahead as planned in the wake of Dean & DeLuca’s decision to cease as the event’s title sponsor.

After the initial panic and frustration subsided, the city and the club have worked toward securing the funding for the 2018 event. Their goal is to escape the title sponsorship business by creating a collection of contributing sponsors. The tournament has been a PGA Tour event since 1946.

Whether it be Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price or Colonial officials, no one involved in this process wants to see The Colonial change, much less end, during their tenures of leadership.

With so much at stake for the city in terms of revenue, charity and history, Price has doggedly pursued assistance from area business leaders to secure Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour calendar. There exists genuine optimism on the part of city and club leaders that Colonial’s event is not going anywhere or ending.

On Wednesday night, club officials met with the board to apprise it of where things stand. Things have not changed dramatically, but there has been some progress made.

American Airlines has pledged to help.

XTO spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry confirmed the company is in discussions with Colonial about becoming a contributing sponsor.

Sources said BNSF is also tentatively scheduled to be a contributing sponsor as well. Calls to BNSF were not returned

Colonial needs approximately $11.5 million to meet its financial responsibilities for the May event.

There exists, however, some confusion as to exactly where Dean & DeLuca sit in this evolving equation.

Dean & DeLuca is under a binding contract with the PGA Tour and Colonial to remain in the role it has had for the previous two events. There has been no change to that, although Colonial, the city of Fort Worth and the Tour are functioning like D&D will not be the title sponsor in 2018.

D&D has expressed an interest in remaining a partner with The Tour, but no one is certain on what level. D&D has reportedly halted expansion plans.

Sources said the PGA Tour is scheduled to meet in December with another prospective contributing sponsor and a potential title sponsor. When a company is interested in sponsoring a PGA Tour event, it is not necessarily a particular competition that could be the lure, but rather the dates or other factors up to and potentially including a CEO’s personal preferences.

Per a source, the Tour did propose Colonial to a prospective title sponsor but was rejected because the company did not like the date. The 2018 Colonial is scheduled for May 21-27. Memorial Day weekend is for many the start summer and not ideal for mid-afternoon TV ratings.

To navigate all of this, the Club has retained the guidance of a consulting firm that has advised leadership not to talk to the media. (Note to readers: Sports columnist Mac Engel is a social member of Colonial.)

Club sources flatly denied a Golf Channel report that Colonial’s decision to move its popular member-guest tournament from October to May is a sign that the club does not expect to hold the PGA event next year. Sources said the club didn’t want the tournament to conflict with a TCU home football game.

The question everyone involved wants to know is when this will be finalized and formally announced. As of Dec. 1, there is no hard answer and there is no hard deadline, but there is some progress, some momentum and hope that a solution will soon be found.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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