Williamsburg May Lose PGA Tour Event


Anheuser-Busch may decide to end its sponsorship of the PGA Tour's Michelob Championship at Kingsmill in Williamsburg, VA, an event the company has sponsored for 25 years.
Bill Rammes, president of Busch Properties, Inc. and the tournament's chairman, said in a statement Wednesday, 'The Michelob Championship at Kingsmill's current contract with the PGA Tour expires after the 2002 tournament. As we do at the end of each contract, we are assessing our position and evaluating options for continuing our affiliation with professional golf.'
Although the tournament announced record charitable contributions following David Toms' repeat victory in October, the escalating purses on the PGA Tour, which are provided by the title sponsors, and the lack of network exposure has had a financial impact on the event.
The tournament's purse, just $350,000 back in 1981, when $54,000 went to winner John Mahaffey, climbed to a record-high $3.5 million this past year. Toms collected a first-place check for $630,000.
Due to impending purse increases, Canon (Greater Hartford Open) and Advil (Western Open) have pulled sponsorship from their events effective next year.
All four rounds of the 2001 Michelob Championship were broadcast on ESPN, while in the past the weekend play was carried by a leading, non-cable network that brought in larger television audiences.
Another problem has been top-ranked players skipping the event. World No. 1 Tiger Woods has never made the trip to Williamsburg, while Phil Mickelson, currently ranked second, played in the tournament once, in 1993. However, third-ranked David Duval, a back-to-back Michelob winner in 1997-98, has been in the field every year since '97.
After four years at Silverado Country Club from 1977-80, the Michelob Championship (known as the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic from 1977-95) moved to the Pete Dye-designed River Course at Kingsmill-on-the-James, the brewing company's residential resort community near Williamsburg, in 1981.
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