Sale of Hooters chain leaves tour in flux

Hooters of America was sold Monday, raising questions about the future of one of golf’s largest mini-tours.

Hooters, the restaurant chain known for its hot wings and attractive waitresses, was purchased by a consortium of private investors.

The transaction brings to an end nearly three decades of Hooters ownership by the family of founder Robert H. Brooks, who died in 2006. According to a news release from Chanticleer Holdings, which is among the new owners, “Brooks was known in part for his colorful and often unorthodox expansion of Hooters into ventures such as an airline and NASCAR.”

Sponsorship of the Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based golf tour is one of those ventures.

Hooters is the title sponsor of the National Golf Association/Hooters Tour, which is on equal footing with the eGolf Professional Tour as the biggest tours for players without PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour status.

Mike Pruitt, the chief executive officer and chairman of Chanticleer Holdings, declined comment when reached by Golfweek, saying that he was not authorized to comment on the transaction. Hooters Tour president Robin Waters told Golfweek, “They’re committed through 2011. We hear from Hooters that they’re committed. They’ve got a lot of large issues on their plate with the changeover. ... They’ll get to us eventually.”

Among the decisions facing the new owners is whether to continue the tour’s title sponsorship, one of Hooters’ main marketing initiatives. Hooters is the NGA/Hooters Tour’s largest sponsor, Waters said.

Waters said he has “no doubt’’ that the NGA Tour could survive without Hooters’ sponsorship, adding: “The NGA is a solid business model.”

The NGA/Hooters Professional Golf Tour, founded in 1988 by R.C. “Rick’’ Jordan as the Hooters/Jordan Tour, lists 15 companies as sponsors on its website. As with golf tours at all levels, securing sponsorships continues to be a challenge in this economic climate. However, Waters said the tour could attract a new title sponsor, should Hooters pull out.

“Over the years, we’ve had people contact us about being involved as title or presenting sponsors.”

The 21-event season begins Feb. 16 in Eustis, Fla.

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