Kevin Kleps over at Crain’s Cleveland Business opined today that bringing the Senior Players Championship to Firestone as a replacement to the Bridgestone Invitational would be “a considerable step down” and “a downgrade”.
Initially, he could be right.
I agree that the change from the Bridgestone Invitational to the Bridgestone(?) Senior Players Championship would be an economic loss for the city of Akron and the charities that benefit from the event — for the first year or two.
But think about this: the PGA Tour has built a significant event out of The Players Championship on the main tour. The event earns chatter every year as being a “fifth major”.
The Senior Players Championship is already considered a major on the PGA Tour Champions, of which there are five. But it hasn’t garnered the same public perception as The Players Championship does on the regular tour.
I’d say venue.
Almost no one remembers, but the Senior Players Championship started at Cleveland’s Canterbury Golf Club, where it was played from 1983 – 1986.
Then it went to Ponte Vedra for three years, starting at Sawgrass CC in 1987 before moving over to the TPC for ’88 and ’89.
But after that, it went to some golf courses that simply don’t move the needle for golfer or media attention: Dearborn CC / TPC of Michigan for a whopping 17 years; Baltimore Country Club for 3 years; Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh for 3 years; and a series of one-offs at TPC Potomac, Philly Cricket, Westchester, Belmont. Most recently, it was contested at Caves Valley Golf Club in Maryland.
Sorry, but excuse me while I yawn.
In essence, it’s a 27-year run of golf courses that most fans don’t even know exist.
The Players Championship has been at the iconic TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course since 1982. Using that world-renowned golf course year-after-year has pulled the tournament to top-of-mind with the golfing public.
So isn’t there a solid chance that if the Senior Players Championship finds an iconic home at Firestone South for a long-term stretch, that the result could be the same?