Open cancellation hits players, charities, too
When the Colorado Open was cancelled at the last minute late last month for failing to secure a title sponsor, the ripple effects were felt across the county – even across the country.
But in hindsight, the cancellation was nearly predictable because the event’s promoter, Jack Doak, failed to secure a title sponsor to help cover the more than $250,000 it takes to attract top-notch golfing talent and to produce the event.
The Colorado Open, according to golf industry experts, may have fallen victim to a new reality of evaporating corporate sponsorship. Doak did, however, secure several, smaller sponsors for the event.
The Open, set for the Sonnenalp Golf Course in Edwards, was the 39-year-old crown jewel of Colorado’s golf tournaments – just one step down from the national tours – and one in which touring professionals liked to compete because it has a decent purse and offers a chance to help pay bills they accumulate on the pro circuit.
Out of pocket
More than 150 golfers, for example, paid $295 for a chance of winning up to $30,000.
“I flew in from Ohio on Saturday, practiced Sunday and qualified with a 67 on Monday,” said touring professional David Games. “So, not only am I out the opportunity to play in a supposed prestigious event, but also food and lodging expenses, rental care, air fare (and penalties for changes), my wife’s non-refundable ticket and practice and entry fees.”
Games’ anger is similar to that of others who were out the money and had no ability to earn it back.
“It’s for the local Colorado club pros,” said Bill Loeffler, Colorado Open champion in 1991 and 1993. “A lot of people count on it for income and prestige. At one time it was the No. 1 state open in the country.”
The Open once attracted top golf talent, like Fred Couples and others.
“I felt sorry for a couple of guys I knew from Utah,” Loeffler said. “Their wives took time off from their jobs to fly out here and watch them play so, it was a double whammy.”
It’s not the first time the tournament has come up short. Last year, when the tournament was run by Dave Edmiston, the Sonnenalp covered the $180,000 player’s purse when a major sponsor failed to materialize.
Now, after being cancelled for the first time in its history, the Open may have fallen victim to lingering tough economic times and a stingy corporate sponsorship environment that has companies paring budgets and staff.
The last major sponsor of the event was First Data Corporation, two years ago. The event ran last year without a title sponsor.
“At one time, the Colorado Open was a very prestigious tournament,” said Senior Open competitor Tom Nosewicz. “Now there’s competition from lots of tournaments. There’s also not a lot of money available.”
But Doak’s promotional woes didn’t start with the Colorado Open. He also fell short of money producing the Colorado Senior’s Open, leaving many unpaid players.
Nosewicz was owed money from the Open, but he still hasn’t been paid.
“He (Doak) paid the top three or four players, but there’s probably 50 guys that didn’t get paid,” he said.
Nosewicz said it’s the young players who feel the cancellation of the Open the worst.
“They stay on the road as long as they can,” he said. “When something like this happens, it’s just devastating.”
Nosewicz, who said he is owed $800 by Doak for placing in the upper level of the Senior Open, wasn’t critical of Doak.
“On Jack Doak’s behalf, he was trying to put money in our pockets,” he said. “He just couldn’t find any and the best thing he did was cancelling the
Players in the Colorado Women’s Open, according to the Colorado Ladies Professional Golf Association, did get paid. But there are other effects from the cancellation of the tournament.
Another, perhaps more unfortunate impact, falls on the charitable organizations named to benefit from the tournament proceeds. The Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards was named a beneficiary of the Open and the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver was to benefit from the Senior Open. The Shaw center, however, has not received any contributions from the tournament, said a hospital spokeswoman.
The Open’s Web site also indicates the event organizers had teamed with the Colorado Professional golfer’s Association to raise money for its foundation.
How much money would have been generated by the tournaments could not be determined by representatives of the charitable organizations.
What will happen to the Open?
Doug Wall, club manager at the Sonnenalp, said the future of the event is up in the air.
“It (cancellation) could be really good for the tournament. People could come out and support the Colorado Open,” he said. “It has a terrific history. Or, it could create a lack of trust with the Colorado Open. When you lose trust and faith in a tournament, it’s going to be hard to get players to come back and play in that event. It could be the beginning of the end, but I sincerely hope not.”
Jack Doak could not be reached to comment on this story. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said his office has not received any claims stemming from the cancellation of the open.
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or email@example.com.