published Friday, June 29th, 2012

Chattanooga Classic needs title sponsor

Securing a title sponsor is paramount for the Chattanooga Classic golf tournament.

And it needs to be done soon or the PGA Tour's developmental series may never return to the Scenic City.

"The goal is to have it next May or June, but it all depends on finding a sponsor," Black Creek Club general manager Rob Riddle said. "It's on Black Creek to find that sponsor."

Friends of the Festival had been handling most of the operations, but officials from Black Creek Mountain have taken over most of the responsibilities because a contract between the PGA Tour and Friends of the Festival has expired.

"The tournament is very much up in the air and we'd love to have it nailed down," said BCM director of operations Dana Feneck. "We're hoping that we'll be able to do this because it's good for us, and good for the city. We need to convince a sponsor that it's good for them, too."

The estimated cost of title sponsorship is $300,000. Feneck said there is no hard deadline to find a sponsor, but it must be done before the PGA Tour moves along with Chattanooga on the 2013 schedule.

"It's hard for me to say whether we'll have it because we're almost in July and we don't have a major sponsor," Riddle said. "At the end of the day, you're trying to balance the books. But I think it's a great marketing opportunity for somebody."

If a sponsor is secured, the 2013 tournament would likely be held in late May or early June. That creates a conflict for Friends of the Festival as they prepare for the Riverbend Festival -- their premier event of the year -- in early June. Yet executive director Chip Baker said his group would assist next year.

"We'd love to do it again," Baker said. "If we had the money, we'd do it tomorrow."

The PGA Tour announced Wednesday that Web.com will take over as the umbrellas sponsor of the tour immediately. That now allows Classic officials to pursue insurance companies besides Nationwide as title sponsors.

"We've been in touch with all the target companies that you think of in Chattanooga, and we've got no definite answers," Feneck said. "With Web.com taking over, we have a new avenue of conversation."

The Chattanooga Classic began in 2003 and has bounced between being held in late spring and during football season. Miguel Carballo won last October.

There is no tournament this year because of construction at Black Creek and operational difficulties of having two tournaments within an eight-month span. The Tour wanted the Classic to be in the spring this year.

"When something goes away, it's hard to get it back," Riddle said. "There's been some interest in sponsorship, but nobody has jumped out and said, 'Sign me up, Coach.'

"The goal is to have it, but it depends on a sponsor stepping up and putting Chattanooga on a national stage."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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