A formal announcement is planned Thursday at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort near here. The financially struggling tournament, originally the Emerald Coast Classic, has been held at The Moors Golf Club near Milton, just outside Pensacola, since 1995.
'I don't think anybody can say we didn't try to make things work in Pensacola,' said tournament founder and chairman Jimmy Lee, CEO of Buffalo Rock Inc., a soft-drink distributor in Birmingham, Ala.
Lee's company has been underwriting tournament since its inception but organizers have been unable to find a major sponsor to help cover $3 million in operating costs and a $1.5 million purse.
It was renamed after the Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team, based at Pensacola Naval Air Station, two years ago in hopes of attracting sponsorship from defense contractors.
A group of companies involved in manufacturing the F/A-18 Hornet, the plane flown by the Blue Angels, co-sponsored the event in 2004 but pulled out this year.
One of those partners, the Boeing Co., which assembles the planes in its St. Louis factory, has offered to renew its participation, but that's not enough to keep the tournament from moving, Lee said.
The move likely is the end of professional golf in Pensacola. The Pensacola Open, which began in 1929, was the oldest Florida stop on the PGA Tour until it was discontinued in 1988, also because of money problems.
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