After months of speculation and rumor, it is official: the WGC Bridgestone Invitational is leaving the Firestone Country Club in Akron after this summer's event in August.
PGA Tour officials, along with representatives from Bridgestone and Senior Tour golfers Scott McCarron and Colin Montgomerie were on hand for the announcement Thursday morning from Firestone's Club House.
Longtime tournament director Don Padgett III was asked about the impact the move would have on the Northern Ohio Golf Charities, which last year raised more than a million dollars with the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone Country Club, to which Padgett replied, "Charitable dollars we'll be able to give back is what the community makes of it," thus encouraging local resident to support the PGA Senior Tour event with the same amount of vigor they have the WGC events.
Bridgestone Americas CEO Gordon Knapp said, of the transition, "We're very confident that in partnership with the community, we're going to put on a world class event here starting in July of 2019 and continuing for the next four years after that." Knapp added that he doesn't see the move by the PGA as a "major change in direction." Once it the numbers were crunched, and given the direction the PGA wanted to go with their event, Knapp says, "Once (Bridgestone) realized we weren't going to renew the (WGC) tournament, we were absolutely committed that we would still continue with a world class tournament here in Northeast Ohio." He added, "We didn't look anywhere else. The committment was to have that tournament here, at the Firestone Golf and Country Club; it's a world class venue, obviously, and we believe the players are going to be excited to come back here and play."
The official press release from Bridgestone and the PGA Tour is posted below:
AKRON, Ohio – The PGA TOUR announced today that beginning in 2019, Bridgestone will become the title sponsor for the SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, one of five major championships contested annually on PGA TOUR Champions. The event will be played at Firestone Country Club’s South Course, ensuring professional golf’s 65-year tradition in Northeast Ohio will continue with golf’s legends competing each year. The 2019 tournament will be held the week of July 8-14, with a four-year agreement in place through 2022.
Bridgestone also extended its Official Marketing Partner relationship with the PGA TOUR through 2022 and will remain as the “Official Tire of the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions,” with activation at other TOUR events and messaging across TOUR media properties.
“Bridgestone has been a tremendous partner and valued member of the PGA TOUR family since 2005, and we are excited to begin this new journey with them as we bring major championship golf to Northeast Ohio with the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “With Firestone Country Club’s South Course as the host venue, golf’s 65-year tradition in Akron will continue.”
The newly-named Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship will return to Northeast Ohio for a second time in its 35-year history after being played at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood from 1983-1986. In total, the tournament has been played in nine different cities at some of the country’s top venues including The Philadelphia Cricket Club, Caves Valley Golf Club (Baltimore), Fox Chapel Golf Club (Pittsburgh), Westchester Country Club (New York) and Exmoor Country Club (Chicago), which will host the event’s 2018 edition the week of July 9-15.
Along with its stature as a major championship and significance in determining the season-long Charles Schwab Cup champion, the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS will also continue to offer its champion a return trip to the PGA TOUR with an exemption into THE PLAYERS Championship.
“We are incredibly proud to extend our partnership with the PGA TOUR and ensure that world-class golf will continue at Firestone Country Club through the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship,” said Gordon Knapp, Chief Executive Officer and President, Bridgestone Americas. “The Akron community and the sport of golf have played significant roles in Bridgestone’s history and will continue to play significant roles in our future, so it is important to us that we carry the sport’s legacy in this area forward. We are excited to work with absolute legends of the sport to start a new chapter in a 65-year tradition of premier golf events that have made so many positive economic and charitable impacts on this community.”
Past champions of the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS include Arnold Palmer (1984-85), Jack Nicklaus (1990), Fred Couples (2011), Bernhard Langer (2014-16) and Scott McCarron, who notched his first senior major title at Caves Valley last year. In 2019, fans can expect the likes of Couples, Langer, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Steve Stricker and Miguel Ángel Jiménez to be among those vying for the title at a course they’ve all had experience playing in their careers.
In all, 57 of the 78 players who competed in the 2017 SENIOR PLAYERS Championship have competed in either the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational or the NEC World Series of Golf at Firestone Country Club. Most notably, José María Olazábal captured both the 1990 and 1994 NEC World Series of Golf, while Vijay Singh won the 2008 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at 45 years old. Darren Clarke, who will turn 50 this August, won the event’s 2003 edition.
The Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS will replace the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which has been staged at Firestone’s South Course since 2006. The World Golf Championships event will relocate in 2019, with an announcement set for 3:00 p.m. (ET) today. This announcement does not impact the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which will be contested as scheduled, Aug. 1-5.
Ticket and volunteer information for the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship during the week of July 8-14, 2019, will be made available following the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. For more information, please visit PGATOUR.com.
ABOUT PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS
PGA TOUR Champions is a membership organization of professional golfers age 50 and older, including 35 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Tour’s mission is to provide financial opportunities for its players, entertain and inspire its fans, deliver substantial value to its partners, create outlets for volunteers to give back and generate significant charitable and economic impact in tournament communities. In 2018, the PGA TOUR Champions schedule includes 27 tournaments across the United States, Scotland and Canada, with purses totaling more than $56 million. The Charles Schwab Cup, which includes the Regular Season and the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, is used to determine the season-long champion. All events are televised in the United States, with most receiving complete coverage on Golf Channel, the exclusive cable-television partner of PGA TOUR Champions. Internationally, telecasts air in excess of 190 countries and territories, reaching more than 350 million potential households. Follow PGA TOUR Champions online at PGATOUR.COM, at facebook.com/PGATOURChampions, on Twitter @ChampionsTour and on Instagram @pgatourchampions.
Bridgestone Corporation, headquartered in Tokyo, is the world’s largest tire and rubber company. In addition to tires for use in a wide variety of applications, it also manufactures a broad range of diversified products, which include industrial rubber and chemical products and sporting goods. Its products are sold in over 150 nations and territories around the world.
ABOUT BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS, INC.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone Americas, Inc. (BSAM) is the U.S. subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest tire and rubber company. BSAM and its subsidiaries develop, manufacture and market a wide range of Bridgestone, Firestone and associate brand tires to address the needs of a broad range of customers, including consumers, automotive and commercial vehicle original equipment manufacturers, and those in the agricultural, forestry and mining industries. The companies are also engaged in retreading operations throughout the Western Hemisphere and produce air springs, roofing materials, and industrial fibers and textiles. The BSAM family of companies also operates the world’s largest chain of automotive tire and service centers. Guided by its One Team, One Planet message, the company is dedicated to achieving a positive environmental impact in all of the communities it calls home.