Colonial week, winner provide stellar debut for new title sponsor

Jordan Spieth celebrates with caddie Michael Greller after making a birdie from off the green on the 17th hole during Sunday’s final round of the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.
Jordan Spieth celebrates with caddie Michael Greller after making a birdie from off the green on the 17th hole during Sunday’s final round of the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. Special to the Star-Telegram

From the perspective of a first-year title sponsor of a PGA Tour event, as well as the partner that stewards Fort Worth’s annual tour stop, the inaugural Dean & DeLuca Invitational proved to be a rousing success at Colonial Country Club.

To punctuate a 70th anniversary celebration for the Colonial tournament, it is hard to top a week that began with a pro-am visit from actor Bill Murray, included a steady flow of traffic to the title sponsor’s Prince Street Marketplace off the ninth fairway and ended with a dramatic, comeback victory by a Dallas-Fort Worth hero who happens to be the current face of professional golf around the globe.

Touch ’em all, Dean & DeLuca executives and Colonial members. This was a home-run debut for a cherished local event operating under its new name.

It’s hard to top a week that includes the addition of Jordan Spieth, the No. 2 player in the world golf rankings, to the Wall of Champions along with an unbridled thumbs-up from the decision-maker of the new group toting the note to keep this event afloat through the 2021 season.

Sorapoj Techakraisri, the chairman and CEO of Dean & DeLuca’s parent company, PACE Development, flashed a huge smile Sunday on the 18th green as he posed for a photo with Spieth and assessed his company’s first official week as title sponsor of a PGA Tour event.

“It cannot be better. I enjoyed it very, very much,” said the man also known as Khun Ying to his employees and tournament officials. “The whole week, the tournament, the fans, the players, it was a very, very good first-year experience. We’re very much looking forward to next year.”

Asked if the seven-day stretch provided as good an introduction as he had hoped for D&D in one of its primary expansion markets, he said: “I suppose so. And I came to like Fort Worth a lot as well, which is good … The people of Fort Worth have been very, very hospitable and make us feel welcome. We are excited to be a part of this.”

From a health-and-well-being of the tournament perspective, that upbeat assessment from the man who will make the decision about future extensions of the current six-year title sponsorship agreement of Fort Worth’s annual tournament is crucial. On the PGA Tour, if the title sponsor isn’t happy, no one is happy and the future of any unsponsored event can lapse into jeopardy.

Financial terms are not made public regarding these deals. But it’s common knowledge that title sponsors typically cover the cost of the tournament purse ($6.7 million for Colonial this year) and often go above that figure to place their names on tour events. It would not be out of line if D&D paid up to $10 million per year for the chance to showcase itself to the golf world in Fort Worth.

Because first impressions tend to be lasting ones, it is significant for golf fans in Fort Worth and members at Colonial that D&D enjoyed its first taste of tournament week at Hogan’s Alley. Expect CBS’ televisions ratings, which will be released Tuesday, to show a spike from recent seasons because of Spieth’s memorable, dramatic charge in Sunday’s final round.

That is why Colonial tournament chairman Bobby Patton said: “Things couldn’t have fallen into better shape with our leader board and our field. We couldn’t be happier. It’s a great partnership. I know Dean & DeLuca appreciates it and we look forward to a long relationship with them.”

It speaks well for long-term relations that Jay Coldren, Dean & DeLuca’s chief development officer, cited plans for two retail outlets to be operational in DFW within 18 months. Expect bigger expansion moves to follow.

No matter what happens with D&D in the Fort Worth business community, the buzz that Colonial will receive from being the backdrop for Spieth’s first professional win in Texas will resonate loudly in the golf world. So will the improbable, three-birdie finish over the final three holes that he used to claim the title.

Colonial will benefit from adding those elements to its tournament lore. An even bigger impact could come from Sunday comments, when Spieth extolled the virtues of the course and called his triumph “one of the most important days that I’ve ever had” because it will silence talk about his recent Sunday swoons at the Masters and the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Spieth called Colonial “a special place, a really cool club and a great golf course” that he plans to visit on an annual basis as a PGA Tour competitor. Having the face of professional golf utter such things about your event can only help in future efforts to convince high-profile peers who currently skip the event to reconsider future appearances in Fort Worth.

The glowing remarks certainly stand in contrast to Tiger Woods’ take in 2004 that the course’s dogleg fairways do not mesh with the modern game. Having Spieth, the current face of the game, believe otherwise and say it as the Colonial champion can only help the tournament going forward.

“It’s special here,” Spieth said of Colonial. “I love it here.”

Upon further review, the 2016 tournament week at Colonial should be viewed as more than a home run. Let’s call it a grand slam.

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