The Buy.com Tour is branching out, or down, as in Down Under. In 2002 and likely beyond, the satellite circuit of the PGA Tour will stage two March tournaments in conjunction with the PGA of Australasia, one in Australia and the other in New Zealand.
The co-sponsored events will have 156-player fields, featuring 78 each from the Buy.com and Australasia tours. The $1 million (Australian) Jacobs Creek Open is set for March 7-10 at Kooyonga in Adelaide and the $1.2 million Clearwater Classic for March 14-17 at Clearwater in Christchurch. The purses translate to about $500,000 and $600,000 U.S., respectively, well above the $425,000 Buy.com minimum of 2001-02.
The intent is to expand Buy.com Tour awareness and offer events at a time of year when sponsorships and venues are difficult to secure because of a crowded marketplace, said Bill Calfee, Buy.com Tour chief of operations. The Buy.com has had three early-season Florida tournaments go under, the latest the Florida Classic in Gainesville. That winter window is difficult for the Buy.com Tour to fill because of PGA Tour, Senior PGA Tour and LPGA events in the warm-weather states of California and Florida, Calfee said.
“These two new events give our players new competition on great courses and give companies here more sponsorship opportunity,” Calfee said.
The co-sanctioned tournaments were proposed by the Australasia tour, which is restructuring in light of financial and administrative problems. Commissioner Andy Laidlaw recently resigned over philosophical differences, the Greg Norman Holden International event has folded and ANZ Bank didn’t renew its umbrella sponsorship.
“It’s interesting that we’re taking the Buy.com Tour to Australia when their own tour is struggling and it doesn’t provide opportunity for more of our players,” said longtime player-manager Rocky Hambric, whose stable of clients includes several rising young professionals. “Why would we leave half the Buy.com field at home to play in Australia with Australians? How do you explain that to Buy.com members who can’t go? Plus, Buy.com newcomers will be at a competitive disadvantage because they’ll fall behind those who go.”
In response, Calfee cited the difficulty of securing sponsors and sites for domestic Buy.com Tour events in January-March.
“Two events in Australia on great courses and with good purses is a lot better than having the players sitting at home with no tournaments to play,” he said.
The Buy.com Tour, which Calfee calls the third and “arguably second” most competitive tour in the world, scheduled 29 tournaments this year and will have 28 to 30 next year. The schedule is due out by month’s end.
At some point the tour will have a new name. Buy.com has paid for the umbrella sponsorship through 2002, but the company sued for breach of contract when the Tour hired another e-commerce firm. Thus, Buy.com and the Tour want to terminate their sponsorship agreement, Calfee said, and the Tour is negotiating with possible replacements.
Calfee confirmed using the name PGA Tour II is an option. For sure, the PGA Tour logo or name would be used in branding if a Buy.com replacement is found, he said. Under that scenario, individual tournaments would be able to sell title sponsorships to raise funds.