tampabay.com

Golf tournament secures new sponsor

PODS, a Clearwater moving a storage company, will sponsor the PGA tournament at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor throgh 2012.

By BOB HARIG
Published January 23, 2007


Tampa Bay's PGA Tour golf tournament secured a title sponsor on Tuesday morning, entering into a six-year agreement with PODS -- a Clearwater moving and storage company -- that is expected to keep the tournament at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor through 2012.A PODS spokesperson confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

The tournament, which had been called the Chrysler Championship the past four years, had been looking for a title sponsor for nearly a year. Without one, the event's future was in doubt beyond the March 8-11 tournament.

What started as the Tampa Bay Classic in 2000 got a big boost last year when it was moved from its October date to the prestigious March timeframe, making it part of the new FedEx Cup schedule. It will follow the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens and precedes the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. A month later is the year's first major, the Masters.

But securing title sponsorship proved to be difficult, and a tournament cannot exist in today's golf world without one. PGA Tour sponsorships run about $7-million per year or $42-million over the six-year contract, which is tied to the tour's network television deals. The PODS Championship will be televised for the first two rounds on Golf Channel and the weekend rounds on NBC, Channel 8 locally.

Title sponsorship dollars fund part of the $5.3.-million purse, with the remaining money coming from the PGA Tour. The sponsorship also covers a required minimum of advertising dollars to be spent on television as well as tournament operations.

PGA Tour officials, however, have suggested that PODS is not paying the full sponsorship amount, hence the need to secure other funding.

One way they have already attempted to do so is by asking Pinellas County to be a secondary sponsor. The county would get significant exposure on the network broadcast to promote tourism, although the two-year, $4-million sponsorship has only been proposed and needs to be approved and would not begin before 2008.