Will the PGA Tour ever come to Buffalo?
by Kevin Sylvester
I recently played in the Web.com Tour pro-am at Peek n Peak Resort in Clymer, NY. It was part of the events during the first of July for the LECOM Health Challenge. The WEB.com Tour is the path to the PGA Tour for most players, the AAA of the golf if you will (although the gap between the WEB.com tour and PGA Tour is razor thin). I witness a lot of great golf working the fairways for PGATour Radio. The pro for our group at Peek n Peak was Kyoung-Hoon Lee, and he was a pure ball striker. I have little doubt he’ll be playing on the PGA Tour in the next few years.
The experience in the pro-am, and through my work on the PGA Tour has compelled me to answer a question I am often asked; ‘Why don’t we have a PGA Tour event in Buffalo?’. My answer consists of three elements: sponsorship, golf course, and schedule. I’m not sure which one comes first, but my guess would be sponsorship. The PGA Tour has great corporate partners that provide the funds necessary to put on world class events. On top of the corporate partnership dollars, the sponsors help run the event with volunteers and charitable programs. It is a large commitment, and not easy to do. The corporate partner has to be fully invested. Local companies that have the financial ability and activation capacity are few. Delaware North is large enough, knows how to service large events, and is a national company that could leverage other partnerships to make it first class. New Era Cap is another company I’d target with a tie to the golf industry, with many of the top players (Dustin Johnson tops the list) wearing their caps through sponsorship deals. Given that New Era gains golf exposure through D.J., and national exposure through the Bills’ stadium naming rights deal, it doesn’t seem likely they’d be a title sponsor. New Era was recently a secondary sponsor to LECOM for the WEB.com tour event, and like their hats, a good fit. Outside of Delaware North and New Era, I don’t see a fit for a local title sponsor.
The golf course is another consideration. There are only a few golf courses that could host a professional event, due to length and challenge of the golf course. River Oaks is a great layout and has championship tees. That would be my number one choice, but they would still need to make some updates to the course and facilities. That would take getting course ownership and its members on board for the update. Crag Burn would be my second choice, as it’s the most challenging golf course, but access for fans would be difficult and I’m not sure the members want to give up their facility for one of the few precious weather weeks we have in WNY.
The final, and most difficult, consideration is the PGA Tour schedule. Finding a week that fits on the current PGA Tour schedule is only going to happen if another tournament is moved or dropped off of the schedule. The PGA Tour is also looking at altering the schedule to have the FED EX CUP Playoffs finish at the end of August. In order for that to happen, some tournament shuffling will have to occur. Shuffling, not addition.
I think we should embrace and support what we have; the WEB.Com in Clymer, the Canadian Open in Toronto, and the occasional Major at Oak Hill CC in Rochester.