“The Colonial” is back and will go off as scheduled in 2018, and while there is confidence regarding 2019 and beyond, there remains considerable uncertainty, but optimism.
Per club and city officials, Colonial Country Club has secured one-year contributing agreements with American Airlines, XTO and BNSF for approximately $2 million each to ensure the 2018 golf tournament will go off as scheduled. Bell Helicopter is also a possibility but, per sources, there is a better chance that AT&T will join as a sponsor as well.
The solution for 2018 Colonial is a one-year fix, and not a viable long-term alternative, according to sources. The PGA Tour has been working with Colonial on finding potential sponsors for 2019. A match has not been found, but club officials are genuinely optimistic about the future of the tournament, according to sources.
Club officials are still actively trying to land potential sponsors for the 2018 event. Approximately $11.5 million is required to run the tournament. Whatever the club cannot raise from outside sources, it will make up the difference.
A joint announcement from the PGA Tour and Colonial is expected to come soon regarding the 2018 event.
One obstacle to this has been the status of the event’s current sponsor, Dean and DeLuca.
Colonial is unsure if Dean and DeLuca will remain in any capacity as a potential contributing sponsor. Dean and DeLuca told the PGA Tour of its intentions to pull out as the title sponsor of The Colonial last fall, only two years into its original six-year commitment.
At that time, the high-end grocery chain indicated to Colonial and the PGA Tour a desire to remain associated with the Tour, but how remains unknown.
A “binding” contract is still in place for D&D and the PGA Tour, and both the Club and the Tour would prefer that the company remain on in some capacity, if possible.
Because there is nothing in the contract that includes an actual penalty for a default. There is no precedent with the PGA Tour for what D&D did, so what the Tour is doing is uncharted.
D&D’s default date is believed to be this month, and until that day comes the club can’t officially announce anything in regard to the changes for the 2018 event.
As of today, The Colonial is still the Dean and DeLuca Invitational, but the name change is a formality.
The tournament will go off as scheduled from May 21 to 27. Other than signage, fans should not see a dramatic difference from the 2018 Colonial to previous editions.
Club and city leaders worked feverishly to ensure that the 2018 Colonial remained in place.
The future of an event that began in 1946 remains uncertain, but club and city officials are confident it will remain in 2019 and beyond.
The club’s long-term desire is to escape the title sponsor business completely, and to end the uncertain cycle of hoping a company wants to partner with the event.
Colonial was in nearly this exact situation in 2015 when Crowne Plaza ended its partnership with the tournament; the club went for months not knowing what the 2016 edition of the tournament was going to look like until the PGA Tour lined up Dean and DeLuca in February of 2016.
Considering the high cost of running this invitational, creating the independence Colonial desires to run its PGA Tour event simply may not be feasible.
The PGA Tour lists 42 tournaments in 2018, and nearly all of them have a title sponsor. Dates listed on the PGA Tour calendar without title sponsors include the Ryder Cup, the PGA Championship, The Masters, the Greenbrier Classic, the U.S. Open and the British Open.
The Houston Open is currently going through a similar situation as Colonial after the Shell corporation ended its sponsorship. The Shell Houston Open existed for 26 years, and was the third-longest corporate title sponsored event on the PGA Tour. Only AT&T and Honda have longer affiliations with Tour dates.
The big difference between Fort Worth and Houston’s respective situations, of course, is that Shell informed the Houston Open of its intentions to end its sponsorship partnership one year before the expiration date, whereas Colonial was blindsided by D&D.
Colonial Country Club directors have made it clear to the club’s near 1,500 members that they desire to maintain a PGA Tour event. (Star-Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel is a social member of Colonial; how else do you think he keeps getting this story?)
The club has a “rainy day” fund for this type of scenario, and is prepared to lose some money in 2018. As a result, plans for modifications and improvements to the club will likely be delayed.
The important thing for Colonial, and the city of Fort Worth, is despite a potentially ruinous set of circumstances handed to them, the 2018 event will go off as planned.
The priority now is 2019 and beyond.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof