RTO future may be bright – with a title sponsor | TahoeDailyTribune.com

RTO future may be bright – with a title sponsor

RENO – The PGA Tour has done its part. Now, it’s up to the Reno-Tahoe Open to bring in a title sponsor to keep the tournament running.

For last three years the tournament has had trouble securing a corporation to pony up the required $3 million needed to create a large-enough purse. One of the major obstacles to securing such a sponsor is the current date of the event.

Since its inception, the RTO has been held Aug. 23-26, opposite the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational.

Every potential sponsor has found the date unsatisfactory. However, with the tour reshuffling the tournament schedule for the next four years beginning in 2002, the RTO has been granted a yet-to-be-determined “stand-alone” date.

Along with the new date, the tournament will televised on ESPN. All of which should make the RTO more appealing to potential sponsors.

“If we get a sponsor here we can do well,” RTO tournament director Jim Kline said. “(With the new date) we’ve had a number of companies telling us they’ll talk to us now.”

Although many potential sponsors have shown interest, no one has stepped up with the money.

The RTO requires a sponsorship of $3 million a year because of player purses rising each year. With the new PGA Tour schedule it’s estimated that the purse will rise to approximately $5 million.

“We’d like to have one for the entire four years,” Kline said. “But three years with an option for the fourth would be good as well.”

With a plethora of high-revenue casinos right in Reno, the possibilities should be endless. But the PGA Tour has a regulation against using the word casino in conjunction with the title and/or advertisements. Some casinos, however, are secondary sponsors.

While the future could look very bright down the road, the next few years could be critical to the continued existence of the event.

If the RTO does not secure a sponsor by 2002, it could be extinct before the new schedule takes place.

“They haven’t given us a deadline, but without a sponsor it would be hard to continue it,” Kline said.

However, with the event’s growing popularity among the players, combined with a stand-alone date, many of the big-name stars could play in the future.

Justin Leonard and Fred Couples have expressed interest in joining the field as soon as this year.

“When Justin missed the cut at the U.S. Open, I was hoping he’d keep (his uncharacteristic play) going and come here that weekend,” Kline said.

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