Future of PGA at Akron’s Firestone Country Club unclear

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits off the 18th tee during the final round of the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club South Course on August 6, 2017 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

AKRON, Ohio – For nearly 65 years, the Firestone Country Club in Akron has hosted some of the greatest professional golfers in the world on its iconic courses.

Since 2006, Bridgestone has been the sponsor of the World Golf Championship. Prior to that NEC hosted the World Golf Invitational.

The contract between Firestone and the PGA expires after next year’s tournament. There is speculation the tournament may be moved, leaving the historic Akron course without a professional golf tournament for the first time since the 1950s.

Beyond next year, both sides are not commenting on their intentions for a long-term relationship.

Don Padgett III, the executive director of the Bridgestone Invitational, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Instead, he had a spokesman for the PGA release a statement to FOX 8 News that reads:

“Conversation about the future after 2018 are continuing. No decisions have been finalized. None of these discussions impact the 2018 Bridgestone Invitational, which will mark the 65th anniversary of professional golf at Firestone Country Club. We look forward to hosting a great tournament this summer.”

Around Akron, the news that Firestone might not host a PGA event after 2018 is viewed mostly as speculation.

Rick Rebadow, of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, said he believes it is not time to push the panic button.

“Normal course of business, right?” Rebadow said on Tuesday. “This is typically what you see with the tournament and a tournament of this nature with sponsorship. It’s just the cycle that they are in right now and we need to respect that.”

Rebadow noted the rich history between the local course and the PGA, as well as the deep connections between the most recent tournament sponsor, Bridgestone Tire Company and the community.

The impact of the tournament is far reaching throughout the community, where Rebadow said the PGA and its sponsors cultivated long-term relationships, including sponsorship of more than 30 charitable organizations.

“My thoughts are, for 65 years, this region has come together collaboratively to support some type of PGA activity in Northeast Ohio and particularly at Firestone Country Club. That’s significant. That’s sustainable.

More stories on the Bridgestone Invitational here