AKRON, Ohio - PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan announced on Thursday the creation of a new PGA Champions event to replace the WGC Bridgestone Invitational which will not return to Firestone Country Club following this year's tournament.
The commissioner, along with representatives and executives of Bridgestone and Firestone Country Club, held the news conference Thursday morning without discussing details of the decision to end the World Golf Championship in Akron.
Gordon Knapp, Chief Operating Officer of Bridgestone America says the company will continue to sponsor the new event which will be called the 'Bridgestone Senior Players Championship' begining in July 2018.
The event will be one of five major championships on the PGA senior tour. "This is emotional and this is change, change is always emotional. I think we need to get through the 2018 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Once we turn the table and once people start to realize what a gem they have in the fact that its committed here long term and some of the new opportunities this creates I think the event will flourish and that's what we intend to make happen," said Monahan.
Monahan said the senior events give golf fans greater access to the senior players than the community at large has had with the PGA tour players including pro-am events where people can play alongside some of golf's greats.
"It will give us the opportunity to raise more money and continue to make a big impact for charity, or raise more money in a way we have not been able to do." said Monahan.
"I don't know if I would describe this as a major change in direction. Decisions like this they are always very carefully thought through you know we looked at where the PGA was going with their evolving directions and pricing and frankly we had to take a step back and look at our own portfolio of sports sponsored packages and when we realized we weren't going to be able to renew the WGC we were very committed to make sure we brought a world class golfing event here to northeast Ohio and we are excited about this," Said Knapp.
"It is a slightly different product but you know you are going to see world class golf champions, you are going to have an international field, you are going to have them here at the Firestone Golf and Country Club and we think its going to be an exciting event for northeast Ohio," said Knapp.
The new event is committed to be at Firestone for four years through 2022. Don Padgett, who has been the Executive Director of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone said he is focusing on the next few years and making the new event the best it can be without looking ahead to what may come when the four year contract expires.
"After discussions with the PGA tour and Bridgestone they went through and just had different objectives than the WGC platform from a sponsor strategy but with that being said we are really excited to continuing the 65 year history of professional golf with the Bridgestone Senior Players," Padgett told Fox 8 News.
"Legends of the game that have come to Firestone for years will coming back. We will have a mid-July date that will actually space out the signature events in the area. We will have Bridgestone Senior Players, First Energy American Soap Box Derby, a week off and then the pro football hall of fame festivities," said Padgett calling it a "new and exciting chapter in our history.
The senior tour includes pro golfers who are over 50 years old. They include names like Steve Stricker, Vijay Singh, John Daly and Bernhard Langer, many of whom played on the Firestone course when they were in their prime.
"We were on the PGA tour for many many years, we know what it takes to keep the sponsors happy we know what it takes to keep the fans happen," said Scott McCarron.