Colonial’s new title sponsor plans to lay down roots in Texas

The exhaustive search to secure a title sponsor for Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop landed an international specialty foods retailer with an executive who considers his brand a “perfect” fit in Texas and in professional golf.

Bayani Lauraya, global president of Dean & DeLuca, expressed hope Monday that golfers at Colonial Country Club will be competing in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational for decades to come. The tournament celebrates its 70th anniversary at the May 23-29 event and Lauraya said D&D executives seek “to be true to the heritage that Colonial still holds an invitational that will celebrate its … 75th and 80th and 100th [anniversaries]. We want to be part of that.”

Bayani Lauraya, global president of Dean & DeLuca, explains what enticed the company to become title sponsor of Fort Worth's annual PGA Tour stop at Colonial Country Club. Video by Jimmy Burch.

Lauraya said D&D executives consider Dallas-Fort Worth a “top three” market for their U.S. expansion plans and hope to open their first of multiple retail outlets in the Metroplex within a year. Dean & DeLuca, headquartered in Wichita, Kan., operates full markets as well as café setups in 12 U.S. locations, but seeks to raise its DFW profile in a big way in the near future. The first step came with the company’s six-year commitment to serve as title sponsor of the Fort Worth event through 2021, a move Lauraya explained during Monday’s kickoff luncheon at Colonial.

This is perfect for us. We hit a grand slam on this. We’re here to be a real partner and to provide a real contribution.

Dean & DeLuca president Bayani Lauraya on becoming title sponsor of the Colonial tournament

“We wanted a highly prestigious country club with a rich history,” Lauraya said, explaining D&D’s marketing focus. “This is perfect for us. We hit a grand slam on this. We’re here to be a real partner and to provide a real contribution.”

To some golf fans in Fort Worth, the first step in the partnership — removing the “Colonial” name from the event for the first time in tournament history — raised eyebrows. But the move, said Lauraya and PGA Tour executives, had more to do with shortening the official title than de-emphasizing the club that is the host venue.

Rob Ohno, the PGA Tour’s senior vice-president for business development, was involved in putting the sponsorship deal together and said: “Both the club and the title sponsor felt it was in the best interest of the event to shorten the name.”

For the past nine years, the tournament had been dubbed the CrownePlaza Invitational at Colonial. It was altered, Lauaraya said, to resonate better during telecasts.

D&D's global president Bayani Lauraya says decision to omit the word "Colonial" from official tournament title was made to shorten the name of the event. Video by Jimmy Burch.

“Having the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial was too long of a name,” Lauraya said. “We felt it was important to shorten it and it would be easier to remember.”

Tournament chairman Bobby Patton, a longtime Colonial member, stressed that club members are thrilled to have Dean & DeLuca on board after negotiations with Exxon and Toyota/Lexus failed to produce a deal. Patton also confirmed sponsor-related talks with American Airlines and PlainsCapital Bank for the Colonial tournament, which generated $9.1 million for local charities last year.

We were going to have a 70th (anniversary). But I don’t know if we would have had a 71st.

Tournament chairman Bobby Patton, a Colonial member, on the long-term ramifications for the club if no title sponsor had emerged for the 2016 event.

Discussions with Dean & DeLuca, he said, began roughly five months ago and concluded with the six-year deal announced on Feb. 15. Financial terms were not disclosed, but landing D&D for 2016 avoided potential financial repercussions for club members.

If the tournament had been played in May without a title sponsor, Colonial officials would have been on the hook for the $6.7 million purse. Contingency plans and presenting sponsors were being discussed, Patton said, before D&D signed on the dotted line.

“We were going to have a 70th [anniversary]. But I don’t know if we would have had a 71st,” Patton said, reflecting on the gravity of holding a tournament without a title sponsor on today’s PGA Tour. “You don’t even have to be a golf fan to appreciate the significance. All you have to do is look at the economic impact to the city and the benefit to all of the charities. And, quite frankly, it just would have been gone. And that would have been a terrible shame. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. I’m just eternally grateful.”

Patton, a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, attended last week’s tour stop in that city, dubbed the Northern Trust Open. Although the host venue, Riviera Country Club, is not included in the event’s official title, Patton said: “There’s nobody that doesn’t know (the tournament) is played at Riviera. Just like they’re going to know that the Dean & DeLuca Invitational is played at Colonial.”

6Years that Dean & DeLuca will serve as the title sponsor of Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop, through the 2021 tournament.

With plans, based on input from the new title sponsor, to stay in Fort Worth for an extended stretch while building the Dean & DeLuca brand in Texas.

“Texas is a very important state for us and Dallas-Fort Worth is an important metropolitan area for us,” Lauraya said. “It’s a large economy that could do well. We believe … Fort Worth would be a very good place for us.”

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch

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