Web.com Tour loves KC, but PGA Tour remains elusive
JUL 10, 2013 11:29a ET
"Hopefully, we'll have something to announce in the next few weeks," says Bill Calfee, president of the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour's top developmental circuit. "But it's been great for us and we want to be there for a long time."
So there's that.
Mind you, as for the elephant in the room ...
"It's not a process that happens overnight," Calfee says when asked about the prospects of Kansas City as a future stop for the PGA Tour, the odds of hosting the big sticks. "It takes time, and I think we're getting there.
"I'm excited about the future and about where the tour is heading. And like I said, we love this market, and we'd love to build it together here."
In other words, this might take a while.
"(PGA officials) don't have anything against Kansas City," Calfee continues. "If anything, I think people should look at this and say, 'This is the PGA Tour.' Tiger Woods isn't coming, but there are a lot of great names that are coming, and a lot's at stake this year."
That said, it's still a tricky sell. Golf, perhaps more than any professional sport, is about brand recognition, brand comfort, brand identification -- and, in this case, the players are the brands. The Web.com Tour is roughly to the PGA Tour what NASCAR's Nationwide Series is to the Sprint Cup, or maybe what the D-League is to the NBA. You may not have heard of these guys yet, but you will.
Still, it's not Tiger. It's Edward Loar and Alex Aragon, and a slew of other up-and-comers who are trying to build that all-important brand. When the Midwest Classic begins July 18 at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate in Overland Park, it's more about the ambiance and the experience and less about, say, star power.
"Our tournament is growing," says David Byrne, president of the Kansas City Crusaders and the Midwest Classic's tourney chair. "And I don't anticipate it going anywhere."
And for that, the locals have Byrne and his cohorts to thank. The Crusaders are a nonprofit organization of roughly 40 members founded in 2009 to promote professional golf in greater Kansas City and support charitable organizations. When the Champions Tour -- the former Senior Tour -- left the market, Byrne and company banded together with the hopes of remaining on the PGA's radar some way, somehow.
"I can't tell you the reason why those (Champions) events didn't succeed; I think it's probably a complicated group of factors," Byrne says. "But we're trying to do things differently, and I think there were some outside entities that managed those certain events ... we know that in Kansas City, (this event) needs to be run by a local, Kansas City organization."
And so the Crusaders have been out in force, trying to mend old fences while building new ones in the process. From a fan perspective, it's not hard -- as Byrne will tell you, this is a good golf town, historically.
As sporting institutions go, Tom Watson has few peers. Kansas ranked 13th in the country in 2011 in terms of golf courses per capita (1 for every 10,451 people, according to the 2010 census); Missouri was 34th (1 for every 17,824). According to a 2012 ranking by GolfWeek magazine, two of Missouri's top five courses -- Shoal Creek in Kansas City and Creekmoor in Raymore -- can be found in the metro, as well as one of Kansas' top five in Prairie Highlands of Olathe. In fall 2011, Golf Digest rated greater Kansas City No. 15 in the country as part of its list of America's Top 20 Cities For Golf, ahead of San Diego, Detroit, Minneapolis, Birmingham and Louisville.
And yet three markets out of those five -- San Diego, Minneapolis and Birmingham -- are a part of either the PGA Tour or Champions Tour slate in 2013. Meanwhile, Kansas City waits.
"I think the question is much easier to ask than it is to answer," Byrne says. "As a Kansas Citian, growing up here, I've never been able to come up with an answer."
When it comes to breaking down what happened with the Champions Tour, some have cited poor management; others, poor weather; others, lousy luck. It can't be the facilities. Can it?
"I don't think that's the reason golf hasn't taken off in the past," Byrne says. "It's a complicated answer to a complicated question."
Although money -- no shock -- has a tendency to uncomplicate things, once push comes to shove. A Champions Tour event, Byrne notes, is about "three to four times more expensive to run" than a Web.com Tour stop. The Midwest Classic costs about $1 million to run, give or take; a Champions Tour event is in the $3 million to $4 million range, Byrne says, and a PGA Tour stop is in the ballpark of $12 million to $18 million. The Classic's purse of $600,000 is among the smaller takes on the Web.com Tour.
"We really have to walk before we can run," Byrne says. "If Kansas City and the area companies and the sponsors want to get behind golf, they can do it at the Web.com Tour level.
"If we can, we want to grow -- if we can get a PGA Tour event, that's my goal. That's an $8 million to $10 million fund-raising event. That's significant. And really, in order to get there, we have to make the Web.com (Tour) successful first."
And you know what they say: If you build it ...
Well, all right, yeah, nobody's promised that they'll come. But they didn't say they wouldn't give a long, hard look.
"It's nothing against Kansas City at all. We love Kansas City," Calfee says. "We're not in St. Louis, we're not in Philly. We're not in some big markets that are big golf markets.
"There's no space on the calendar right now for the PGA Tour. We think it's a good opportunity for the market, and we'll continue to grow it. And who knows, down the road, where we take it?"
So, hey, maybe it's not you. Maybe it's them. Kansas City might not be on the PGA's front burner, as topics go, but at least it's trending.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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