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Detroit. Just the name causes eyeballs to roll these days. It's a city for which perfect games are lost on the final out because of blown calls and game-winning TD passes are undone by a definition of possession that only an NFL committee could dream up. This is where General Motors lives—smack dab in the heart of the city.
In August 2009, as the Buick Open was being played up the road in Flint, GM was emerging from bankruptcy. Everyone involved—the government, the creditors, the stockholders and the company's executives—knew the company would have to end its sponsorship of the tourament. Yet after 51 years of volunteers taking vacation time to work on the tournament and local companies supplying the tournament and helping fulfill the needs of the various charities associated with the event, GM never said a word to anyone. The company simply walked, without so much as a thank you.
Despite the snub, local interests rallied in an attempt to lure golf back. The Detroit Golf Club, with its 36-hole Donald Ross design that dates to 1894, offered its services. Tyler Dennis, the director of competition for the Tour, visited the course in 2009 and declared it tournament-ready.
Fast-forward to autumn 2010. After stiffing its suppliers and stakeholders, GM is ready to get back into the golf sponsorship game. So where will GM spend its money? In Miami, of course.
The Doral event will now be known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship. By the Tour's own estimate, one of its events generates $15 million to $20 million in local revenue through hotels, rental cars, food and beverage, restaurants and entertainment and the associated taxes.
I'm sure things are tough in Miami, but Detroit is in a huge hole. The city has a $300 million debt crisis, the school system graduates only 38% of its high schoolers, and unemployment is around 14%.
True, the Miami tournament is held the second week in March, a date that wouldn't work in Detroit, and it is a high-profile event that needed a sponsor. But if GM and the Tour were dedicated to do something great for Detroit, they could've worked something out. Instead they fled to the sun and glamour of Miami.
During the announcement Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said, "We also look forward to exploring opportunities with Cadillac to bring PGA Tour golf back to Detroit." Is that before or after the Lions win the Super Bowl?
Jim McGovern ran Buick's golf program from 1998 to 2005 and consults for title sponsors of PGA Tour events.
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