Mac Engel

Colonial thanks Fort Worth, focuses on 2019

The name had been decided on some time ago, but Colonial and the PGA Tour had to wait until Dean and DeLuca was officially out.

The Dean and DeLuca Invitational at Colonial is officially no more, and the PGA Tour stop at Colonial is now the Fort Worth Invitational. The last time The Colonial did not have a title sponsor was 1995.

Do not, however, expect The Fort Worth Invitational to last long. A year.

Colonial Country Club, which was put into a bind last year when the previous title sponsor, Dean and DeLuca, pulled out of its title-sponsor commitment several years early, is still looking for a long-term solution to secure its future on the Tour.

Naming the venerable PGA Tour event the "Fort Worth Invitational" was a thank you to the city, and specifically mayor Betsy Price, for their efforts to secure the money necessary to hold an event that began in 1946.

Price was a big player in recruiting companies American Airlines, XTO, AT&T and BNSF to be contributing sponsors to keep The Colonial, by any name, intact for this year. Sources indicated those four respective companies each contributed $2 million to help make the 2018 event possible. The country club is picking up a large amount of the final sum, too.

All four of those companies, however, indicated that their contributions to Colonial are a one-time gesture.

Club president Rob Doby and Price are the ones whose leadership and work helped to make this all happen under terrible circumstances. There is no precedent for what D&D did to the Tour and Colonial when it told the club it planned to pull out in October of last year. The original agreement was for six years, through the 2021 event.

The club's focus is now on 2019 and beyond.

"The consensus feeling was that the new logo says Colonial just fine. The focus needed to be on Fort Worth based on our history and what has transpired over the last 100 days. People know what that clubhouse graphic means," said Michael Tothe, tournament director.

The club has a pair of potential title sponsors in mind, and Tour officials are working in conjunction with Colonial to keep The Colonial on its regularly scheduled location on the spring calendar, sometime in May. The event this year is scheduled for May 24-27.

"We are extremely pleased and excited to be able to get this together; it took a lot of people and a lot of community support to do this," Doby said. "(As far as the future), the preference is a title sponsor but there are a lot of different potential scenarios we are looking at and can do. We do feel confident for the future."

Wednesday's announcement had been a matter of a when, not if, since January. Club officials and Tour leaders were still negotiating with representatives of D&D as long as possible in hopes that a middle ground could be reached, and that the high-end grocery chain would remain as a contributing sponsor.

Colonial was looking for money to help run the event. The Club figures to absorb a large financial hit on this name change; there is the matter of signage and other expenses Colonial will have to additionally fund to make this name change from the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial.

Club officials could not even reach D&D representatives, and eventually gave up and just waited for the breach of contract date to arrive to officially change the name of the event.

D&D's contract with the Tour, however, carries no official penalties for early withdrawal. The company has fallen on hard times of late. It was purchased by the Thailand-based Pace Development Corp. in 2014, and in the last year D&D announced plans to halt any talk of expansion.

Ending its relationship with Colonial and the PGA Tour was one move in what is expected to be a slew of steps backward by D&D.

Colonial is now moving forward, and for one year is now "The Fort Worth Invitational."

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