September 10, 2007–The PGA Tour officially announced that the Shriners Hospitals for Children organization has increased its level of partnership with the Las Vegas PGA Tour event beginning in 2008 and running through 2012. This year the event is called the FRYS.com Open Benefiting the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The PGA Tour says that the Shriners have agreed to a five-year commitment to continue as the host organization, and "will commit the necessary resources to the event to assure its continuation in Las Vegas through at least 2012." More details will be made available in the coming weeks, but those close to the discussions termed the new role as similar to a title sponsorship. Also, possible format changes for 2008 could be in store that would include having no pro-am during the official PGA Tour rounds, but adding a Wednesday pro-am and a Monday celebrity pro-am. No plans have been officially finalized. Ultimately, the event could also become a focal point for a "Golf week in Las Vegas".
The Shriners took over as the host organization of the FRYS.com Open earlier this year, replacing the Las Vegas Founders, a group of local business leaders that helped raise more than $15 million for area charities. The event has been struggling for sponsorship continuity for several years. This year's title sponsor, FRYS.com, is also the title sponsor of the FRY's Electronics Open in Scottsdale the week following the Las Vegas event.
The event celebrates 25 years in Las Vegas this year, and the current tournament committee is planning several festivities that will honor the tradition of the PGA Tour in Las Vegas.
"We are delighted that Shriners Hospitals for Children has made this commitment to our Las Vegas event," said Henry Hughes, executive vice president and chief of operations, PGA TOUR. "It's clear that Shriners Hospitals for Children is energized by this opportunity to even more effectively integrate the tournament into the Las Vegas community, and we look forward to a strong and effective collaboration. We also appreciate the support of Fry's Electronics for this event, and we are looking forward to a great tournament in October."
Young gun Troy Matteson is the defending champion for the FRYS.com Open and is planning on defending his title October 11-14, 2007, at Las Vegas golf courses TPC Canyons and TPC Summerlin. Other notable champions of the tournament include Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk (three times), Greg Norman, Fuzzy Zoeller (in 1983, the first year), Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange.
The new tournament host committee is working on new ways to create fan interest and excitment for the tournament. One focal point for fans will be "The Hill", a VIP entertainment area that overlooks holes 16-18, and that will feature a nightlife-type atmosphere complete with high-end food from Las Vegas' top restaurants, big screen televisions, and other entertainment. Hopes are that the area will evolve into a similar scene as the 16th hole at the FBR Open in Phoenix, an annual extravaganza that draws thousands of golf and non-golf fans to the PGA Tour.
The local golf community, including PGA Tour players and others, are excited about the news and believe it is a big win for to finally have the local PGA Tour event on solid footing. It has been many years since the tournament has had a long term, solid title sponsor.
"It's wonderful, and it's very good for the city," said Julian Dugas, LVCVA Director of Sports and Sponsorship. "It proves yet again that Las Vegas is an absolutely viable place to host world class sporting events, and it's very good for the city to be aligned with organizations like the Shriners."
Las Vegas native and 8-year PGA Tour veteran Criag Barlow, who grew up attending the tournament and worked for the event as a young man, was thrilled to be alerted to the news today.
"I am very excited about that … that's the first I've heard about it," said Barlow, who is coming off a season of injuries but is feeling better and ready for a strong fall finish. "When I was a kid, the Las Vegas event was one of the biggest on the PGA Tour, and it was exciting. It's been a disappointment to me that the event hasn't kept that level, but hopefully with this news it can return to that level.
"Las Vegas is too good of a golf destination to not have a pro tournament, so this is welcome news. From a player's standpoint, they all love coming to Las Vegas and enjoying the city. We have a lot to offer."
Also, discussions and plans appear to be moving forward regarding the creation of "Golf Week in Las Vegas". Possible plans include coordinating the dates of the PGA of America Fall Expo, the Las Vegas PGA Tour event, and the addition of other PGA Tour events, all to happen during one week that culminates the PGA Tour season.
"This (agreement) is definitely a foundation for that, and it could happen in the foreseeable future," said Ian Knight, Tournament Director. "The evolution of this into a significant event on the golf calendar is definitely underway."
The annual Grand Slam of Golf, an event that features the four major champions, was once said to be moving to the new Coyote Springs development, just north of Las Vegas. Plans call for a PGA of America facility and several Jack Nicklaus golf courses to be built in the ambitious real estate development that was created by Nevada's Harvey Whittemore and others. There was no mention of the Grand Slam of Golf being a part of that Las Vegas golf week, but the Grand Slam is annually played during a similar timetable as the Las Vegas PGA Tour event. This year, the Grand Slam is being played October 16-17 in Bermuda. The Grand Slam of Golf is operated by the PGA of America.
The Shriners have been involved for many years with the East-West college football bowl game, but just recently made the decision to become more involved with the PGA Tour and golf. There are about 450,000 Shriners, and tournament organizers say that the Shriners community will continually be tapped as a resource for volunteers, ticket sales, fans and other opportunities that will develop throughout the life of the sponsorship.
"We are thrilled to make this long-term commitment to the tournament," said Ralph W. Semb, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Shriners Hospitals for Children. “The partnership with the PGA TOUR, and its charitable mission, is a fantastic complement to our own charity focus, and we are excited about the future of the Frys.com Open benefiting the Shriners Hospitals for Children."