Hillendale's PGA Senior scenario only lacks a '92 sponsor

John Steadman

August 30, 1991|By John Steadman

It's difficult to comprehend that all the essentials are in place -- the course, tentative dates and even a suggested name, the Chesapeake Open -- but no commercial sponsor has stepped forth to handle what for a major business would be a comparatively modest expenditure.

A place has been reserved on the Senior Golf Tour for 1992 and the event belongs to Baltimore -- if it can find the corporate support.

The purse for the tournament is close to the going rate, $600,000, and would be an ideal attraction for the city and state. Members of the Hillendale Country Club, the projected host site, voted overwhelmingly to permit use of their facilities in a gesture that notifies one and all that they want to make a contribution to furthering golf interest in the area.

Any company, especially one with its corporate headquarters here, would gain immeasurably in goodwill and advertising if it decides to participate. It also would provide a vehicle for bringing customer-guests to a quality sports attraction and offer the ideal focal point for providing entertainment and socializing in the great outdoors.

Bill Clarke, retired Hillendale professional and a man who has given so much of himself to the progress of golf, even serving an elected term as president of the national PGA, believes the necessary support and funding will be forthcoming. It's Clarke's opinion the Senior Tour, featuring such glittering names as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez and Miller Barber, wants Baltimore on its schedule.

"I have to talk with Lou Grasmick, who has been with me from the start on this," said Clarke, "and also Gov. William Donald Schaefer to apprise them of where we stand. I have been talking right along with Chris Hartman and Hal Donofrio of the Richardson Myers & Donofrio Advertising Agency. They know about first-class golf promotion from a long association with the USF&G New Orleans Open."

It's possible if one sponsor doesn't want to carry the financial obligation that two or three could become involved on a cooperative basis. But, regardless, it would be a serious setback for the Baltimore area if Clarke, after moving this close to a coveted objective, didn't get the outside help necessary to finalize the deal.

Playing dates would be late September, when residents are home from summer vacations and the temperatures are comfort

able for walking a golf course. Conversations have been going on between Clarke and Ric Clarson, director of the Senior Tour, for almost a year. Everything is positive, virtually set, except the sponsors.

Scott Seymour, an official with Advantage International, with its main offices in Washington, also has expressed an interest in assisting with the effort. But, to this point, the proposed senior tournament at Hillendale has not found the important financial backer and the original deadline of Sept. 20 is close at hand.

"I don't believe the PGA wants to 'X' us out [the perfect analogy since rejected golf balls are referred to as 'X-outs']," explained Clarke. "The PGA Tournament Policy Board will soon be meeting rTC draw up the 1992 schedule and we have to be in position to offer the proper information, which means the identity of a sponsor or sponsors, whatever the case might be."

Clarson and Clarke have an excellent relationship, which is working to Baltimore's benefit. But, bottom line, at this point, the metropolitan Baltimore business community has failed to grasp the opportunity. To be this close, with all components in place except a sponsor, means it would be a serious setback if the fiscal aspects fail to materialize.

The Senior Tour, in some instances, has drawn more gallery support and higher television ratings than the regular PGA events, plus continually surpassing the LPGA presentations. Hillendale has earned high marks by making its course available to the senior pros. Not all memberships of country clubs feel that way so such positive action is commendable.

Clarke has not backed off in trying to attain the tournament goal. He is admired and respected within the golfing community, here and also around the nation, because of what he achieved personally and the continuing overall contributions he has made to the sport. This is an opportunity Baltimore shouldn't permit itself to miss.

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