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Will the Classic come back?

Posted: March 13, 2008 1:37 a.m.
Updated: May 14, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
The future of the AT&T Champions Classic at Valencia Country Club is uncertain.

With some doubt that AT&T might not renew its sponsorship, that leaves a possibility that this could be the final year the event is played at Valencia Country Club.

"I don't know. I could not even tell you," said VCC general manager Jim Fitzsimmons on if he thinks the tournament will return in 2009.

Last year, AT&T and the Champions Tour came to agreement on March 15, the day before the first round, to extend a sponsorship contract and hold the event at the Valencia course in 2008.

With the deal now up, the Champions Tour must find a new sponsorship for the event, should AT&T pull out, and that doesn't guarantee that it will still be held in Valencia.

A new deal is not expected this week.

"Currently we do not have a contract, but that coincides with a contract with the PGA TOUR so our first objective is to resolve the contractual issues with the tour and then we go to the club," said Brian Fitzgerald, director of AT&T's golf program.

City of Santa Clarita economic development manager Jason Crawford said last year's AT&T Champions Classic generated over $7 million for the local economy.

He said the city is working with the tour to find other sponsorship.

"That's been our understanding that we're working with the PGA and AT&T to find a new title sponsor," Crawford said.

Fitzgerald did not say whether AT&T would continue to sponsor, though he said it is ending its partnership with the PGA TOUR for the AT&T Classic. He added that the company will reassess all five of its sponsorships with PGA TOUR and Champions Tour events.

Going in Valencia Country Club's favor is that it is highly rated by tour golfers.

Champions Tour golfer Peter Jacobsen raved about it Wednesday.

"Ten out of 10," Jacobsen said on his wanting the tournament to stay here. "I don't know how to put that in words, but I'd very much like to see this tournament return."

Crawford said something has to come together before July 1 because the PGA TOUR sets its 2009 calendar on that date.

Another deadline looms as well.

Fitzsimmons said there is a period of 60 days after the tournament where Valencia Country Club must "firm up something" with the tour, meaning be on board to host a tournament.

"In the next 60 days it will all come to light how it will fall out; and every year I have the same feeling like I do right now like in the option years. It ends up going off perfectly and AT&T has been a sponsor," Fitzsimmons said.

All sides are saying they'd like to see the event continue at the Valencia Country Club and negotiations are ongoing, more so on the cityside as Fitzsimmons said VCC is the facilitator.

It makes sense to have a tournament in the Los Angeles area as the Classic piggybacks the Toshiba Classic, held in Newport Beach, every year.

But there is always a possibility that a new sponsor could move the event.

"Whether or not AT&T continues as the sponsor, we expect that the tournament will continue," Fitzgerald said. "We feel that it has a strong enough base in the community. It has enough local support. It certainly has the support of the PGA TOUR and the players that it makes sense to continue to do this event in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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