Golf

Match Play's future here still unknown

2014-01-28T00:00:00Z Match Play's future here still unknownBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Before Gerald Goodman goes to the grocery store or the golf course or runs a quick errand, he prepares himself for what’s coming.

Golf fans in Southern Arizona want to know if the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is staying at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain or preparing for an exodus to another location.

If Goodman, the executive director of the tournament, knows, he’s not telling.

“Golf is so loved in Southern Arizona and people don’t want to lose the event,” Goodman said Monday at the tournament’s media day at Marana’s Dove Mountain. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear, ‘Hey, please keep the event.’ But that’s handled out of the (PGA) home office in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.”

This year’s tournament, set to open on Feb. 19, could be the final one in Southern Arizona. Golfweek.com reported earlier this month that Accenture has told the PGA Tour that this year’s tournament will be its last as the title sponsor. The website also reported the tourney could be on the move, depending on the new sponsor.

On Monday, nobody would predict the future of the tournament. Peter Kent, the tour’s vice president of championship management, said no decision has been made on a sponsor and all of his focus was on next month’s event.

The PGA Tour’s silence, along with Accenture’s potential pullout, has created for some awkward moments for the Tucson Conquistadores, the leadership team and sales arm for the tournament.

“We get concerned because we are a group of all local Tucsonans,” said Heath Bolin, this year’s tournament chairman for the Conquistadores. “It puts us in that situation where it’s our friends we’re selling to or business owners that we do business with. You get a little skepticism. But that’s just part of the deal.

“When we first got this tournament, it was literally a worry every year.”

Bolin continued: “We’ve had a wonderful run (since 2007) with Accenture in this match-play event and if it continues, great, we love it, that’s great. If it doesn’t, we’re still the Tucson Conquistadores, and we’re still going to raise money for the local charities in Southern Arizona.”

The Star chatted with the PGA Tour’s Kent about next month’s tournament, the future of the event and when a possible announcement could come.

Do you see the tournament staying in Tucson?

A: “We went through this two years ago. There was a lot of conversation about what was going to happen with the event. Every year we go through this process with evaluation. My job is to keep everybody focused on the task at hand, which is ’14.

Then we’ll go through our normal evaluation process right after the event, looking at all the various elements. We’ll look at the facility, the staff, the market; all the things we look at as we evaluate the location of an event.”

You mentioned two years ago. Then, an announcement about the future of the event came the week of the tournament. Is that something that could happen this year, or do you not see an announcement happening until after the tournament?

A: “I really don’t know. We still have a couple of weeks. We’ll stay very focused. It’s very easy to get hung up on where we’re going to be a year from now at the detriment of the existing event. So we’ll just really focus on the existing event. Whenever we feel there is information to share, we’ll get that out as quickly as we can.”

Following this tournament, the PGA Tour heads to Florida for a four-week swing annually. Does having the event in Arizona make it harder for golfers coming from overseas, who first have to come here and then head back east to Florida? Would it be easier if this tournament was closer to Florida?

A: “No, I don’t think so. If you look at how those guys travel, you’ll see a good majority of this field in Los Angeles as well for the Northern Trust Open the week prior to this. The other reality of this is these guys operate on a pretty global stage. So the travel isn’t as inhibitive as it once was.

“They are pretty used to traveling and getting around and they manage it really well. A lot of them are just making a quick jump from L.A. to Tucson, so we think the schedule is very conducive to getting people here.”

A few of the top players on the tour like Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Justin Rose have already said they plan on skipping this year’s tournament. Is that a concern for you?

A: “This is the interesting thing where we’re a little bit different. They are not employees of the PGA Tour and these guys control their own schedules. And for a variety of reasons, they chose to skip events.

“We’d certainly love to have them here and if they end up not coming, they will be missed. But at the same time, it’s the nature of our business.”

What is the PGA Tour’s current relationship with Accenture?

A: “The reality is that our partnership with Accenture, they allow us to have this event. We work in conjunction with them. We’re a title driven business. We’ve been with them for a long time. As we get beyond ’14, we’ll sit down with them, like we sit down internally and we’ll talk about that.”

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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