Mac Engel

Thanks to the PGA Tour, the end may be in sight for Colonial

Club officials are confident the 2018 Colonial will go on as planned.
Club officials are confident the 2018 Colonial will go on as planned. Star-Telegram

The PGA Tour has moved its Nov. 1 deadline and given Colonial a month.

The club has until Dec. 1 to find the sponsors and raise the money to ensure that the 2018 PGA event in Fort Worth will go on as scheduled. Right now, the 2018 Dean & DeLuca Invitational is listed by the PGA Tour on its website for the week of May 21-27.

Barring a total and unforeseen collapse, club officials remain confident the 2018 Colonial will go on as planned, and it will be able to fund the $11.5 million necessary to make the event happen.

According to sources, when the PGA informed Colonial that title sponsor Dean & DeLuca was looking to renegotiate or drop its six-year contract, the club had two weeks to find the money to ensure the 2018 date.

Then the PGA softened its stance and pushed the deadline to Dec. 1.

According to multiple sources, the PGA is not doing much to help. That the PGA is sitting on its hands is only slightly ironic because it was the PGA that put Colonial in this situation.

It was the PGA that lined up Colonial with D&D. Now the PGA is looking at the Fort Worth country club to fix this problem.

It has left a lot of Colonial board members frustrated with the PGA, and drawing the conclusion that the PGA is telling Colonial, “You’re on your own.” The PGA is acting like it’s OK if the decades-old tournament simply goes away.

Which is a plausible scenario after 2018.

The PGA is not talking about this, which leads fans, club members and media to draw their own conclusions. Because all of the indicators are there for the PGA to make some seismic alterations, starting with its calendar, which has 42 tournaments scheduled for 2018.

Forty-two, and that does not include the Ryder Cup.

A PGA spokesman said Wednesday morning that the Tour is maintaining its position to not comment on these matters. That’s not a “no comment,” but rather a company philosophy to keep negotiations private.

To not make any effort to provide assurances and allay fears held by so many that The Colonial is in real trouble is troubling and telling.

Unlike so many other tournaments on the Tour, the PGA does not own Colonial. Colonial, which has existed as a PGA event since 1946, assumes all of the financial risks and uses the tournament to make money. It’s similar to The Masters setup at Augusta National Golf Club.

The PGA, technically, is a for nonprofit entity. The PGA Tour raises money for its charities. Dumping Colonial would allow the PGA to set up its own “charitable” tournament, and own all of the profits.

Nonetheless, club and city officials do not want to just throw away a stop on the PGA Tour. There is the matter of tourism dollars, not to mention tradition and civic pride.

Per sources, the club has received assurances from Fort Worth-based American Airlines that it will help out for 2018. Colonial is not expecting help from BNSF or Lockheed.

The club is prepared to cover some of the remaining costs for one year. Sources indicated they do not think the club members would foot the considerable expenses in a greater capacity after 2018.

There exists a faction within the club that would not mind to see the tournament go away; that tournament is a nuisance for many of the club’s 1,500 members. To hold the PGA event, the club dramatically changes its course and overall schedule for approximately seven weeks.

(Note to readers: Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel is a social member at Colonial).

In return, however, the money profited by the PGA event allows Colonial to re-invest in course maintenance and keep monthly dues lower.

Sources indicated that Colonial’s long-term future may be as a fall tournament, which is cheaper, although moving the event is not as easy as switching dates. Colonial’s preference is to remain in the general vicinity on the calendar.

From its date on the calendar to its proximity and need to use some of TCU’s parking lots, Colonial is not an easy fix.

Colonial relies on the use of TCU’s parking lots, which means the tournament needs to be played between the spring and fall semesters, from the second week of May through mid-August.

Because of the heat, the PGA does not want to put any event in Texas in June or July. Or August. Colonial is traditionally the last of the four PGA dates in Texas; the Houston Open, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and the Byron Nelson in Dallas are scheduled before Colonial.

Then there is the matter of the PGA putting tournaments across the Pacific in the expanding Asian markets. The PGA announced the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in Korea this year, a tournament that counts toward the FedEx Cup. If successful, expect more dates to go into Asia.

All of these variables, which is to say nothing of the uncertain state of the PGA’s TV contract, which expires in 2021, has contributed to the anxiety at Colonial.

The PGA could help, but its lack of words and inaction are troubling, and telling.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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