By Brian Biggane
The city of Boca Raton is putting up nearly $1.5 million to ensure that the 12th annual PGA Champions Tour event Feb. 9-11 at Broken Sound Club won’t also be the last.
Formerly known as the Allianz Championship, the first full-field event of the 2018 Champions Tour season will be called the Boca Raton Championship, while ProLink Sports, the company that runs the tournament for the 50-and-older Champions Tour, works to find a new title sponsor for 2018.
“It’s too important for the community to lose it,” said Mayor Susan Haynie, a driving force behind the decision for the city of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District to put up $500,000 each in addition to the city’s standard contribution of $469,000.
“The concern was that if we didn’t have it this year it would go somewhere else,” she said.
Allianz, a financial services company based in Germany, had been the controversial sponsor of the event since it came to Broken Sound in 2007. Pickets turned out every year to protest the company’s alleged ties to Nazi Germany dating to World War II, and while it’s unknown if that was a factor, Allianz decided to walk away when its contract expired after the 2017 event.
Tournament organizers, who briefly called it the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Championship in deference to its largest charity benefactor, have been searching for a new title sponsor since.
“They were working with some potential sponsors,” Haynie said. “But they ran out of time last spring, and that’s when they came to me and said they were looking for the city to contribute. It’s with the caveat that it’s just for one year.”
Tournament director Eddie Carbone, who works for ProLink and formerly served in a similar capacity for the PGA Tour event at Doral for 10 years, expressed confidence that the void will be filled in short order.
“We have a few companies, both on the local and national levels, that will be here for this year’s tournament and see it up close,” Carbone said. “We’ve got the players, the city, the community all rallying to make sure it’s a really strong event.”
Added Haynie, “You have all these CEOs up in the frigid North and they see all the office buildings around the course and they say, hey, maybe my headquarters should be there.”
Haynie said she plans to attend the tournament and serve as the city’s ambassador in any way possible.
An estimated 50,000 turned out for last year’s tournament, and Haynie said the hope is to draw 60,000 this year. General admission is $20. The event is free for those older than 70 or younger than 17.
As part of the Boca Raton deal, the Golf Channel will air 24 commercial spots celebrating the city during its three days of coverage.
Carbone said the field for last year’s tournament was the strongest in the 36-year history of the Champions Tour and this one should be as good if not better.
Boca Raton resident Bernhard Langer, the Tour’s dominant player for the past decade, will be on hand along with fan favorite John Daly, Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and defending champion Scott McCarron.
Sallyport, a private company that chiefly provides support for the military, will be a presenting sponsor and will provide free admission to all veterans with ID.
Golf legend Annika Sorenstam will give a free clinic on Women’s Day on Feb. 5. A practice round will be conducted Feb. 6, with pro-ams set for Feb. 7 and Feb. 8. Admission will be free until the 54-hole, stroke-play event begins Feb. 9.