As the sun headed south and the nearby neon switches were flipped Sunday evening in Reno, the expected glorious week of professional golf came to an end. It followed the recipe of the previous three years, and nobody left Montreux Golf and Country Club disappointed. Well, except perhaps Jonathan Kaye after getting about as robbed as Ive ever seen on a birdie putt to win at the end of regualtion. But to the delight of the Nevadans on hand, Chris Riley, a Las Vegas resident, won his first PGA Tour title.
After a great four-year run, the RTOs contract with the PGA Tour has now concluded. The locals, who supported the event with great enthusiasm, not to mention a sizeable amount of money, are left to wonder if theyll have the opportunity to do so again next year. The truth isnobody knows.
The primary stumbling block at this point is, big surprise here, money.
The RTO has never had a title sponsor. While it has survived its four-year contract relatively easily and contributed nearly $1 million to charity, the fact is that the PGA Tour has subsidized the purse completely for four years.
The current lack of a title sponsor isnt unique to the RTO; there are a number of PGA Tour events that are either without, or in between, title sponsors. September 11th, crooked CEOs, and a slow economy are all factors contributing to the shuffling of sponsors like a single-deck at a $2 table. The problem is that they have never been able to secure one. Its important to keep in mind that the PGA Tour has a policy forbidding the inclusion of casino in any title sponsorship, or that would be a no-brainer. But absent the local support, the RTO hasnt been able to attract the big dollars.
When asked, the local tournament officials pose the ol chicken-or-the-egg hypothesis. Theyre convinced that they could attract big money if they had a stand-alone date on the PGA Tour schedule. They think that they could eventually become a premier tournament that would attract some of the bigger stars in the game. Even Peter Jacobson, whose management company actually runs the tournament, agrees that the tournament could get huge.
Whether the thing could get huge wasnt the forefront of discussion most of the week. Simple survival was. And to a man, every player in the field was supportive. Some more than others of course, but this is obviously a very popular tournament amongst the players.
An immaculate and challenging golf course, the local flavor of entertainment, perfect weather, and a perfect-sized town that has no need for a morning traffic report all combine to make this a tournament for which the players are willing to go to bat. If it were left to them, and ultimately it is, then the RTO will return. But theres always going to be some issue with the money.
Just a few weeks ago, most people around the RTO were ready to put a tombstone on it at weeks end. There was reportedly a PGA Tour-issued deadline to the RTO to secure sponsorship. However, as the tournament drew near, such deadline talk ceased, and the RTO was able to shine.
Will it shine again? According to Duke Butler, PGA Tour Vice President in charge of Tournament Business Affairs, The future of the Reno-Tahoe Open looks bright. The amount of wattage remains to be seen, but at this point, all indications are good.
At the very least, the impression was given that it would be extended another year under the current scenario opposite another bigger tournament. Two members of the RTO Foundation Board that I talked to seemed genuinely certain that good things lie ahead. They also seemed re-energized in a sense. Just a few weeks ago they were thinking about their swan song, and now theyre starting to hear the things they had hoped for so long.
Its tough to imagine that with all other things being equal (once again, money), that a better alternative could be found to the RTO. Not one single player uttered anything along the lines of never wanting to come back. Well, thats not true either. Some are sure theyll be at the NEC next year, and others just arent very good blackjack players. All the rest will have a star on the schedule for some time next August.
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