AKRON Earlier this year, local golf fans were hit with a double bogey in the form of the disappointing news that the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational would come to an end as an annual event.
The tournament has been a constant presence at Firestone Country Club for the past few decades - and every year since 2006 - but when word began to circulate that barring a last-minute miracle in the form of a new sponsor stepping in to keep the event alive, 2018 would be the final year for the tournament.
On April 12, the PGA Tour delivered news that a new event, the Senior Players Championship, will be coming to Akron. Tour officials announced that Bridgestone will become the official sponsor for the tournament, one of five major championships contested annually on PGA Tour Champions.
The 2019 tournament will be held the week of July 8-14, with a four-year agreement in place through 2022.
"Bridgestone has been a tremendous partner and valued member of the PGA TOUR family since 2005, and we are excited to begin this new journey with them as we bring major championship golf to Northeast Ohio with the Bridgestone Senio Players Championship," PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. "With Firestone Country Club’s South Course as the host venue, golf’s 65-year tradition in Akron will continue."
The newly-named Bridgestone Senior Players Championship will return to Northeast Ohio for a second time in its 35-year history after being played at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood from 1983-1986. In total, the tournament has been played in nine different cities at some of the country’s top venues including The Philadelphia Cricket Club, Caves Valley Golf Club (Baltimore), Fox Chapel Golf Club (Pittsburgh), Westchester Country Club (New York) and Exmoor Country Club (Chicago), which will host the event’s 2018 edition the week of July 9-15.
The tournament will help determine the tour’s season-long Charles Schwab Cup champion and as a special incentive, it will continue to offer its champion a return trip to the PGA Tour with an exemption into The Players Championship.
"We are incredibly proud to extend our partnership with the PGA TOUR and ensure that world-class golf will continue at Firestone Country Club through the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship," Bridgestone Americas president and CEO Gordon Knapp said. "The Akron community and the sport of golf have played significant roles in Bridgestone’s history and will continue to play significant roles in our future, so it is important to us that we carry the sport’s legacy in this area forward. We are excited to work with absolute legends of the sport to start a new chapter in a 65-year tradition of premier golf events that have made so many positive economic and charitable impacts on this community."
Some of the sport’s biggest names have won the Bridgestone Senior Players, including Arnold Palmer (1984-85), Jack Nicklaus (1990), Fred Couples (2011), Bernhard Langer (2014-16) and Scott McCarron, who notched his first senior major title at Caves Valley last year.
As an example of how Akron’s new tournament will connect to the previous one, 57 of the 78 players who competed in the 2017 Senior Players Championship have competed in either the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational or the NEC World Series of Golf at Firestone Country Club.
While the field for the 2019 tournament won’t be set until next year, names such as Couples, Langer, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Steve Stricker and Miguel Ángel Jiménez are among those likely to be a part of the event. The World Golf Championships event will relocate to Memphis in 2019, with the final year in Akron set to be played Aug. 1-5.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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