As tournament director of this week's Touchstone Energy Tucson Open, and on behalf of the Tucson Conquistadores, organizers of the event, it is my pleasure to report that our tournament is far from doomed—the word used to describe it in the July 20, 1998, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. The 1999 Tucson Open will be played by 144 PGA Tour pros before 100,000 spectators and a worldwide TV audience. Doomed? Hardly.
People have asked me about playing opposite the Andersen Consulting Match Play, which features the top 64 players in the World Ranking. Although we weren't happy when we heard the news, our event will prove that the Tour is deep enough to support two world-class events in one week. We have major-championship winners such as John Daly, Tom Kite and Corey Pavin, 47 others who have won on Tour, and Ryder Cup players like Per-Ulrik Johansson. With a sponsor and a contract with the Tour through 2002, how in the world could we be doomed?
The Tucson Open has thrived since 1945, when two-time PGA Championship winner Leo Diegel convinced PGA tournament director Fred Corcoran that Tucson was big enough to support a pro tournament. It still is. Our field was one of the 20 strongest on the Tour last year. Other events have heftier purses, louder galleries and bigger TV audiences, but the pros keep coming here because we run a great tournament. The mountains, desert sunsets and warm hospitality ensure our continued success.
We've raised $5.5 million in support of youth athletic programs in southern Arizona. We run the kind of event that built the Tour in the first place, and every year we let our success prove to commissioner Tim Finchem that Tucson is still big enough for a Tour event. We continue to persevere, content to be the genuine article. Leo Diegel would approve.