The PGA Tour announced last week that a new tournament was coming to northwest Tucson. The Tucson Classic, a PGA Champions Tour event, will be played in Tucson’s Omni Tucson National Resort between March 16 and 22, next year.
With the announcement of the Tucson Classic, the long-rumored demise of the World Golf Championships-Match Play event in Marana is finally a reality. Although there were some rumors the tournament might spend one more year in Tucson, it was officially left off the schedule for 2015. It is believed the event will be re-tooled and brought back in a new location in 2016.
It was not really a surprise to anyone that the Match Play was leaving, the only question was when.
“We were certainly aware and have been contemplating this for several years,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson.
Earlier this year, Accenture announced they would no longer be the title sponsor of the Match Play event and most felt that was the end of the event in Southern Arizona. Accenture liked having the event in the area and used it as a retreat for their executives.
“The last several years we worked with Accenture and the PGA to have the tournament stay here,” said Davidson.
It did not help that in recent years several popular players like Phil Mickelson chose to skip the event. This past year neither Mickelson nor Tiger Woods competed.
Many players did not like committing to an event that they may only compete in for a single day.
Another issue facing the event was the course itself. Although the Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain is a World Class hotel and course, it is a difficult one.
Jack Nicklaus designed the course, but many players complained about it during the years, which again hurt the event.
“Having this level of event in our area was big for us the past seven or eight years,” said Davidson. “It was an excellent experience and put Marana on the map so to speak.”
While the new event is not in Marana, the town will still benefit. Many spectators will have to travel through parts of Marana to get to the Omni, and many of the shops and restaurants in the area are also in Marana.
“It certainly supports the region and is still positive for our area,” Davidson said. “We believe people will still stay at the Ritz-Carlton and there will be a lot of people going to our restaurants in the Cortaro Corridor, as well as the Ina and Thornydale area.”
Davidson also mentioned that many fans will have to pass the new outlet mall due to open next year at Interstate 10 and Twin Peaks, and that the increased tournament traffic should help the mall and surrounding businesses.
While the Match Play format could set up some great match-ups, it could also provide showdowns with players that are not household names. In years where many of the favorites were knocked out early, ticket sales suffered. This should not happen with the Tucson Classic, which will feature a number of all-time greats, many who have previously competed in other Tucson-based tournaments.
“Tucson is going to be a popular city for our players as many of them experienced success here during their PGA Tour careers,” said Champions Tour President Mike Stevens. “We are thrilled the Conquistadores have become involved with the Champions Tour and we look forward to a long partnership in Tucson.”
“All the players on the Champions Tour are enthusiastic about returning to Tucson,” said Kirk Triplett, who won the 2006 Chrysler Classic, the last traditional tournament in Tucson before the Match-Play replaced it. “Living in nearby Phoenix, I love desert golf, so I’m really happy the event will be on our schedule next year.”
The Omni Tucson National Catalina Course has played host to the PGA Tour in the past. The 7,262-yard, par 73 course designed by Robert Van Hagge and Bruce Devlin is a parkland-style layout with eight lakes and 80 bunkers. The finishing hole is considered by many to be one of the finest and most challenging holes on the PGA Tour.
“We are very proud to again be involved in hosting professional golf at Omni Tucson National Resort,” said Tom Kermabon, the resort’s general manager. “Many of the Champions Tour’s current professionals will remember the challenge provided by the Catalina Course, as several of them have competed here during their PGA Tour careers. We look forward to hosting them again.”
The tournament will be will be operated by the Tucson Conquistadores and will feature an 81-player field competing for a $1.7 million purse as well as 255 Charles Schwab cup points for the winner. The no-cut format features three days of competition (Friday-Sunday) with players participating in Pro-Am events on March 18 and 19.