NBC, PGA Tour weigh in on dueling golf tournaments
More than a month has passed since the Legends Reno Tahoe Open announced that its 2010 tournament dates would coincide with the American Century Championship.
How a small-market golf region wound up with its two major golf tournaments on the same week in July has stirred controversy and caused conjecture.
Did RTO officials request the July 15 to 18 tournament dates or did the PGA Tour leave the RTO with no alternative?
“There weren’t other dates,” said Jana Smoley, the new executive director for the RTO. “To be honest, we had one option and that was it.”
A PGA Tour official said that the mid-July tournament is the only one the RTO requested.
“There is not much control,” wrote Rick George, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations in an e-mail response to the Tribune. “We work together to find the best dates for the tournament and the tour. It is a challenge to accommodate everyone.”
Donna Fiedorowicz, a senior vice president of tournament business affairs, attended the tournament in August and met with RTO officials about their future on the tour schedule. Fiedorowicz said that it was quickly determined that RTO could only progress by moving the tournament to the mid-July tournament dates.
“Where the confusion came in is that they never had a couple of dates to consider,” Fiedorowicz said. “There could be an open date on the schedule, but does an event fit into it with their financial model? It’s not like they could go into a regular tour date and make it work for them financially. What opportunities they had were limited to only one choice.”
Fiedorowicz said the RTO didn’t have an option of keeping its previous tournament slot.
“We were really trying to get the casinos involved in downtown Reno, and with their focus being on Hot August Nights that week, we weren’t going to be successful,” Fiedorowicz said.
From the celebrity tournament’s inception in 1990, NBC has televised the second and final rounds. Jon Miller, executive vice president of NBC Sports, said the dueling golf tournaments create a number of problems.
“It’s a surprise and we’re obviously disappointed. There were other opportunities for them to go on other dates,” Miller said. “I feel bad for a lot of local people who work that event and this event. They’ll be missing a payday. I feel bad for the volunteers who work both events, and I feel bad for the fans who want to see two quality events. It’s not a good situation for anybody.”
George was aware of the conflict with the ACC when the 2010 PGA Tour dates were released.
“We do have concern, but we have to do what is best for the tournament and the tour,” he said.
This isn’t the first time RTO officials have asked to move from their previous tour slot of Aug. 6 to 9. With the town already focused on Hot August Nights, the RTO wasn’t the marquee event for that week. Smoley said that receiving a tournament date earlier in the summer posed less risk than if the tournament was held in September or October.
“I don’t know about fall entertainment at that high of elevation,” she said. “September could work, but I don’t remember anybody giving us options.”
Miller said the RTO should have asked for a date near the end of the tour schedule.
“Put them on truth serum and they would have taken any date but this one,” Miller said. “Some of the best players in the world will be at the British Open (July 15 to 18), so they won’t get an optimum field. They could have done it the third week in September and gotten a top-30 field, or their event could have been played the first weekend in October and they would have gotten a great field.”
George said that the RTO will likely need to keep their new tournament dates for an unspecified period.
“Generally, they are in certain dates for a period of years,” he said. “It is firm once the schedule is out. They can (ask for a new date next year), but there are no assurances we would accommodate their request.”
Smoley said it’s premature to say if the RTO has long-term plans of holding its tournament in mid-July.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with other tournaments, sponsors – and how can we speculate about how the PGA is going to operate in that fashion?”
Miller said NBC was willing to help promote the RTO had it opted for another tournament date.
“There were a lot of things that we were prepared to do for those guys,” Miller said. “We would have offered kiosks on our site, promoted it on our broadcasts and allowed (spectators) to get tickets at half price. We clearly want it to be a healthy area and be a healthy tournament.”
Even though the ACC has nearby golf entertainment competition for the first time in its history, Miller isn’t overly concerned.
“Obviously these are two separate events,” he said. “We have a lot of things going for us. The British Open is on early in the morning so we’re not competing with that. People want to watch the biggest names from entertainment and sports, and there is unprecedented access to these players on the course. Plus, the weather is great, the venue is perfect and it is so easy for families to come.”
Smoley said that it’s time for the RTO to move forward and capitalize on new opportunities.
“It’s such an opportunity to promote our region as a golf Mecca,” Smoley said. “It’s such an opportunity to activate our community and regional footprint. I don’t seem them as challenges; it’s a really unique opportunity for us. To have a PGA tournament and celebrity tournament in our backyard, we’re lucky.
“I hope we can figure out how to benefit each other and work well together.”
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