Athens – Interesting, UGA getting into the pro golf business.
Georgia’s agreement to host and operate a Nationwide Tour event for the next three years will preserve an Athens stop on the tour, showcase the UGA Golf Course and, if all goes well, produce profits that will be used for need-based scholarships for UGA students.
“This is another illustration of the university’s continuing involvement and commitment to the Athens-Clarke County community,” UGA President Michael Adams said at a Wednesday news conference at the golf course. “We think not only will this be a great sporting event, but a great economic development event for this region.
“The Athens community will continue to have the visibility that the tour provides. I’m excited also about the exposure that I think the university will receive in the process. . . . We intend this to be a very strong town-gown partnership.”
Adams said that, other than startup costs, the tournament will not require university funding.
“This is designed to be a self-supporting event with no university funds ultimately directed to it other than some on the front end to get it off the ground,” Adams said. “Any proceeds from the tournament will go to need-based scholarships that will be deposited, funded and administered through the Arch Foundation.”
The Nationwide Tour — owned and operated by the PGA Tour — has had an Athens event (at Jennings Mill Country Club) since 2006, but apparently would not have had one next year if the “Athens Classic at UGA” hadn’t materialized. The event will be run by the university’s Auxiliary Services Department. UGA will join Ohio State as colleges currently hosting Nationwide events.
UGA expects to raise a good chunk of the money needed to fund the tournament through pro-ams preceding the event. Sponsorships also will be sold, including, perhaps, a naming-rights deal when the economy improves.
Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee estimates the tournament will have an approximately $5 million annual economic impact on the Athens area. He also predicts the UGA Golf Course will come up a big winner: “I know our players are going to come here and come to me and say, ‘Bill, why haven’t we been playing here all along?’”
A couple of other things:
– Looks like an SEC basketball tournament will be played in metro Atlanta three of the next four years. The SEC women’s tournament will be played at the Gwinnett Arena in 2010 and the men’s tournament at the Georgia Dome in 2011, and the conference is in exclusive negotiations with the Dome to play the men’s tournament there in 2013, too.
– Billy Payne – a former Georgia football star, CEO of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and now chairman of Augusta National Golf Club – will be presented the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award. The award recognizes people who have “applied the character-building attributes learned from amateur football in their business and personal life.” Previous winners include Vince Lombardi, Bob Hope and Pete Rozelle. Payne will receive the award at a Dec. 8 banquet in New York. He lettered three years for Georgia (1966-68) at receiver and defensive end. And Georgia noted in a news release about the National Football Foundation (NFF) award that Payne’s Bulldogs career included intercepting a pass thrown by Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, now NFF chairman.