2001: Business - Honda re-ups, but site iffy

By Leah Miller

The American Honda Motor Co. has renewed its title sponsorship of The Honda Classic for another three years, from 2003-2006, but questions remain about where the event will be played.

The current site, TPC at Heron Bay in Coral Springs, Fla., has difficulties drawing a strong field because it competes against more established, prestigious tracks such as Doral, Bay Hill and TPC at Sawgrass during the Florida Swing in March.

The Honda Classic Foundation, which oversees the event, has looked at four or five courses in the region in hopes of finding a site more appealing to PGA Tour members.

“You can’t have players not playing because of the course,” said Cliff Danley, the tournament’s executive director. “We’re pursuing our options.”

These could be limited, however, because the PGA Tour and the Honda Classic Foundation signed a 25-year-contract with the City of Coral Springs to host the tournament within the municipality. None of the alternate sites being considered by the foundation are located in Coral Springs, and legal issues could arise if the foundation pursues a move outside the city’s borders.

“There may be reasons why it [a move] can be done and may be reasons why it can’t. We haven’t gotten that far yet,” Danley said. “If and when the Classic Foundation makes the decision to move from here, that [any potential legal action] will have to be taken into consideration.”

Danley also said that the PGA Tour, which owns TPC at Heron Bay, must approve any location change.

PGA Tour officials declined to comment about a venue switch, but said they would consider such a recommendation from the foundation.

Another course of action, according to Danley, would be to make improvements to Heron Bay. The foundation and the PGA Tour are discussing possible improvements.

News of American Honda’s renewal comes on the heels of a published report that the company was withholding its sponsorship in an attempt to force the PGA Tour to move the tournament from Heron Bay or to upgrade the facility significantly.

But Danley dismissed the report as erroneous.

“American Honda isn’t making demands,” he said. “Honda will be our sponsor; there will be a Honda Classic in South Florida.

“The question is where we’ll be playing in 2003-06. There’s been no decisions made. And it’s not an American Honda decision. The PGA Tour’s contract is with the Honda Foundation. American Honda has seats on the board, but whether we stay at Heron Bay or move will be the Classic Foundation’s decision.”

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