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AT&T Champions Classic: A future in doubt

It appears unlikely the Champions Tour will return to SCV next year

Posted: March 13, 2009 1:35 a.m.
Updated: March 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Ben Crenshaw tees off at the AT&T Champions Classic at Valencia Country Club. Ben Crenshaw tees off at the AT&T Champions Classic at Valencia Country Club.
Ben Crenshaw tees off at the AT&T Champions Classic at Valencia Country Club.

Odds are not in favor of a Champions Tour professional golf tournament returning to the Santa Clarita Valley after this week's tournament.

Santa Clarita city officials and the Champions Tour have not found a replacement sponsor for AT&T.
The telecommunications company has sponsored the AT&T Champions Classic since 2006, but the firm decided not to renew its contract after the 2009 event.

The decision has left city officials scrambling for a replacement, but due to the current economic climate, there hasn't yet been any success.

"The city has been and will continue to look for a sponsor," Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar said.
Valencia Country Club has hosted a Champions Tour event since 2001. Since 2005, the course has been rated one of the toughest for a nonmajor on the Champions Tour.

Kellar said he personally has sent out letters to companies trying to convince them to sponsor a future event.

"This is probably the single (biggest) event year after year in (Santa Clarita) in terms of economic development for the community," Kellar said. "From an economic development perspective, we estimate it being in the $5 (million) to $7 million range."

Organizers of the Champions Tour couldn't shed any light on a future event in Santa Clarita.

"We're involved in discussions with other (possible sponsors) but there is nothing to report," said Bill Oakley, director of tournament business affairs for the Champions Tour.

According to tour statistics, Valencia Country Club was rated the third-hardest nonmajor course on the tour last year.

The past two events have seen some of the most exciting finishes on the Champions Tour as both ended in a playoff.

Golfers generally rave about the course as well.

Two-time event champion Tom Purtzer said it would be a shame if no event is played at Valencia Country Club in the future.

"It's such a good tournament, one of the best," Purtzer said.

"Everyone looks forward to coming here."

But the golfer added that he understood AT&T bowing out of its sponsorship.

Those The Signal spoke to overwhelmingly raved about AT&T's handling of the tournament.

Jim Fitzsimmons, general manager of Valencia Country Club, said a new sponsor would have to replicate what AT&T has done over the years in order for a tournament to once again be held at the course.

Valencia Country Club, though, is a third party in the negotiations, he explained.

Fitzsimmons said he would likely have to get word within the next 90 days for an event to happen next year at Valencia Country Club.

"Never say never, but at this point, it hasn't happened to my knowledge," he said.

Kellar said he remains optimistic.

"I'm going to give it a 50-50 shot," he said of finding a sponsor and the tournament returning.


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