Tucson Back in the Saddle for 2012 WGC – Accenture Match Play
Tucson has dodged the “high, hard one’’ once again after the PGA Tour announced on Monday that the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is returning to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain near Marana for 2012.
There was one significant change, however, as the Tour also announced that long-time employee Gerald Goodman would replace Tucson’s Wade Dunnagan as executive director of the Match Play. Dunnagan, a popular figure in the Arizona golf community, had been in that position for the past three years.
Monday’s announcement squelched a recent rumor that the Match Play was headed for the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Florida. According to that erroneous report, the WGC-Cadillac Championship that had been played at Doral recently was headed for Detroit, where Cadillac is headquartered. (Just remember there’s still 2013.)
Judy McDermott, the long-time executive director of the Tucson Conquistadores, which hosts the WGC-Accenture Match Play, said she was “elated and relieved.’’
“Now we just need to keep it here through 2014, which was kind of the goal right from the beginning,’’ she said. “At the same time, we realize that it’s all going to stem from the Tour’s television contract that will be renegotiated next year.’’
One of the big stories surrounding this year’s tournament, besides the ascension of Martin Kaymer to No. 1 in the world and winner Luke Donald’s rise to No. 3, which gave the Europeans the Nos. 1 through 4 spots in the world rankings, was whether or not Tucson will still host the Match Play in 2012. Speculation had it moving although most felt with the current TV contract on the table it might be here for one more year.
Tucson does have a contract with the PGA Tour to host the Match Play through 2014, but as McDermott noted the contract has a clause that makes it “breakable.’’
“Who knows how it will all play out?’’ McDermott acknowledged. “As I’ve told (the Conquistadores), we can only do what we can do and make sure that every time we host the tournament we do the best job we can in case it’s the last.
“But even if we lost the Match Play, I’m very hopeful that we would still get to host a tournament on the PGA Tour.’’
Tucson is one of the oldest tournament sites on the PGA, dating back to 1945, when the Tucson Open was first contested at El Rio Golf Club. The Conquistadores have been the official host of the event since 1966, raising over $15 million for local charities.
Goodman, a former college football star at North Alabama who served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Louisville, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi, joined the PGA Tour in 1989. Among his previous posts, he was the director for the J.C. Penney Mixed Team Championship, as well as the PGA Tour stop in Tampa Bay, Fla., most recently called the Transitions Championship.
Goodman said he got out of football and into golf after the staff at Southern Mississippi failed to win more than six games in 1987 with a freshman quarterback named Brett Favre.
“It’s funny how things work out, but a friend on that staff at Southern Mississippi went to work for the PGA Tour, and he called me and asked me if I’d like to join him,’’ the good-natured Goodman recalled. “So I took a job in the golf business and I never looked back.’’
Goodman said that one of his first gigs with the Tour came in Tucson when he was working in the marketing and promotions department as an on-site coordinator.
“I think I was there from 1989-1995, and I got to know Tucson a little bit, and I liked it,’’ he said. “What I remember most, I guess, is the last year I worked that tournament at TPC Starr Pass it snowed, just like it did during the final day of the Match Play at Dove Mountain this year.’’
Goodman said that he spent the previous four months before this year’s tournament working with Dunnagan and the staff at the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain. And like McDermott, he couldn’t say if the Match Play would remain in Tucson beyond next year.
“I think the tournament is going to be in the same situation as this past year: Wait and see,’’ he said of the Match Play’s future. “We’ll just have to see how the TV contract all plays out.’’
Goodman, who will arrive in Tucson on Wednesday and be headquartered at the tournament office on Oracle Road, said he relished the move from Florida to Arizona.
“Florida can be kind of lackluster when it comes to professional golf, in that the fans have a tendency to take things for granted since they have four straight PGA events all within 200 miles of each other every year,’’ he said. “You don’t get that (lackluster) feeling in Tucson.
“Tucson (fans) and the Conquistadores, they get the economic impact, which is why the Match Play gets such solid support. Our job is to hit the ground running and be part of the community. We’d also like to get some new ticket programs out there, as well as tap into the Phoenix market a little bit more.’’
Goodman’s enthusiasm seems well-intentioned, but the question remains how long Tucson can hold on to the Match Play with its international stars, especially the Europeans, on a dramatic rise in stature? Chances are great that the answer won’t come until next year, shortly after the Tour pounds out all the details for the TV contract, which given the current economy and lower-than-average ratings, will surely lead to a revamped schedule in 2013.
In other words, stay tuned.