Tourism rift as PGA moves Reno-Tahoe Open to same July weekend as Tahoe celebs
November 3, 2009
RENO – The PGA Tour is moving the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open to the same July weekend that a nationally televised celebrity golf tournament has been played at Lake Tahoe for 20 years, much to the chagrin of South Shore tourism officials.
The PGA event with a $3 million purse historically has been played the second weekend in August at Montreux Golf & Country Club on the edge of Mount Rose between Reno and Lake Tahoe. The new dates of July 15-18 announced on Tuesday put it opposite the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline.
The move drew sharp criticism from tourism officials at Lake Tahoe who are concerned both events will suffer as a result of their head-to-head competition for fans and sponsors at the two destinations 60 miles apart.
“This is a disservice to golf fans in the region that have had two annual tournaments,” said Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. She said she understood Reno had “numerous options” that would have avoided the conflict.
“The American Century Championship has 21 years of continuity, great partners from title through associate sponsors, loyal community support, annual growth and has contributed over $3 million to local and national charities. Plus, it’s Lake Tahoe,” she said.
A tourism official in Reno disagreed.
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“Having these two golf events taking place in our region at the same time is a wonderful opportunity to showcase Reno-Tahoe as a premier golf destination,” said Ellen Oppenheim, president and CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority.
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Rick George, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said tournament officials in Reno sought the change. Previously opposite the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational, the 11-year-old Reno event replaces the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee as a stop for golfers not eligible to play in the British Open.
“We’re pleased we have been able to accommodate their desire to move to an earlier date and know our players will look forward to returning to Montreux,” George said.
In its infancy, the ACC rotated its tournament dates from mid-July to the Fourth of July weekend. But since 2002, the tournament dates have always been in mid-July. NBC’s other sports contractual agreements have repeatedly cast the ACC opposite the British Open during the second weekend of July.
John Sande, chairman of the board of the Reno-Tahoe Open Foundation, said he’s convinced the move will mean a stronger field of golfers in Reno because fewer qualify for the British Open than the WGC event. He said it also will eliminate the competition for hotel rooms that traditionally fill up when the Hot August Nights classic car festival overlaps with the golf tournament.
“The celebrity tournament has been successful for years. We don’t intend to encroach on them in any way,” Sande told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“We think having two events like this is a strong indication that this region may be the best region anywhere for golf,” he said.
Sande said it was “unfortunate” they couldn’t have given the Tahoe event prior notice of the change but he said he didn’t know what the new date would be until the PGA Tour announced it Tuesday.
Taking the RTO’s former place in the PGA Tour schedule is the Turning Stone Resort Championship in Verona, N.Y.
– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling contributed to this story.