Q&A: Champions Tour president Mike Stevens

Tom Watson (right) and Fred Couples at this year's Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii.

With Fred Couples grabbing headlines for the Champions Tour, I thought it would be a good time to chat tour business with Champions president Mike Stevens. Fresh from a conversation this weekend, here’s my Q&A with the man-in-charge:

Golfweek: How does overseas play fit into the Champions Tour’s future?

Stevens: We started our international strategy in the Dominican Republic (in 2009 with the Cap Cana Championship). We used the same formula and did a deal in Korea. We’ll be there in September. We tried to tie it into a second event in the region. We have some opportunities, and we’ll look to do it in 2011. We’re back in Canada with a new event in Montreal and have had discussions about a new event in Mexico. We’re doing well domestically, and we’re going to entertain some international opportunities in a calculated way.

Golfweek: What’s the difference in the challenges you faced a year ago?

Stevens: Stupid answer but the economy. At this time last year, we were dealing with title sponsors who had concerns about their company. There were TARP issues we were dealing with. The good news is we grew the Tour in a difficult economy. We lost the Ginn event, but we ended up gaining one event total.

Golfweek: How many events is the right number for the Champions Tour?

Stevens: We’re at the right number (26). We’ll never exceed 30. I think 25-28 is the right range. The reason being is our players are playing all the events. We purposely build in breaks. We try not to schedule more than 3-4 tournaments in a row.

Golfweek: As the former tournament director of the PGA Tour’s Verizon Heritage Classic, what are your thoughts on its sponsorship issues?

Stevens: I helped orchestrate the deal a few of us put together back in 1986 so I’m feeling a little melancholy about that. . . They’re getting assistance from the State of South Carolina to bridge the gap. I know they have a reserve fund because I set it up when I was there. They probably have enough to get them through one event, if not two.

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