The Stadion Classic at UGA will take another swing this spring.
After several months of negotiations, the University of Georgia, tournament sponsors and the PGA’s Web.com Tour announced on Wednesday that the event has been renewed for one more year with its top sponsors — the locally based Stadion Money Management and Yamaha — on board.
The tournament has been played at the UGA Golf Course each year since 2010 and has become a fixture in the local golf scene.
“Over the last three years, there has been a permanent feel to it,” UGA Golf Course general manager and PGA Director of Golf Dave Coursart said. “I think everybody expects it and anticipates it every year and really enjoys it. We think it’s one of the biggest events in the Athens area and we’re just glad it’s back.”
The tournament’s previous three-year contract ended after the 2012 tournament in May. The new contract is for one year, Cousart said, and the tournament will be played April 29 through May 5.
“I am pleased that the Stadion Classic will return to the UGA Golf Course in 2013,” UGA President Michael F. Adams said in a news release. “This is a great event for a great cause, and it has been embraced by the Athens community as one of the highlights of the spring. I am grateful to the PGA Tour for its partnership and support of this event.”
The Web.com Tour, previously the Nationwide Tour, is the developmental arm of the PGA Tour. In previous years, golfers who placed among the top 25 money-earners or who won three events on the Nationwide Tour were granted status on the following year’s PGA Tour, though the qualifying procedures will change for the 2013 season.
The tournament has been a boon to the Georgia men’s golf program, which hosts the tournament on its home course and has had back-to-back winners in Russell Henley, who won as an amateur in 2011, and Hudson Swafford, who won as a Nationwide Tour rookie in May. The team is granted two unrestricted exemptions, which are given to the golfers with the lowest average prior to the tournament. Two years ago, Henley was one of those players granted a spot in the lineup.
“Needless to say, I’m ecstatic it’s coming back,” Georgia men’s golf coach and director of golf Chris Haack said. “It’s one of the events we really look forward to as a program every year. It’s an opportunity not only for us to have a couple of our guys in the event but to see some former players come back and have a chance to catch up with them and have them around once again.”
Henley won two late-season Web.com Tour events to spring up the list of money-earners and qualified for the upcoming PGA Tour season with a third-place overall finish. Swafford fell two spots and less than $3,000 short of a top-25 finish, but his Stadion Classic victory guaranteed him a spot on the 2013 Web.com Tour.
“For both of those guys, winning here jump-started their careers,” Haack said. “They know they can win in the pro tours, and it gave them that big boost of confidence they needed. They know they can do this anywhere now and make a great career. Any time you have players who have a chance to do that, it’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
As much as the tournament may help recruiting or motivating current golfers, it also puts a spotlight on Georgia’s golf facilities.
“There’s no question that in the last three years it’s given us, for lack of a better word, prestige and attention,” Cousart said. “… We’ve gotten a lot of recognition for it, no doubt, and our people and employees look forward to it every year. And it’s become a great challenge because we try to improve ever year. The work load may have lessened a bit for us, but it’s a big undertaking and well worth it, and it’s something we definitely care about a lot.”
Organizers and sponsors said in the spring they had hope to secure the tournament’s future within a few months, but there were delays in hammering out some of the details, including the possible inclusion of more major sponsors as well the tournament’s charitable aspects. Last year, the tournament’s Tickets Fore Charity program raised $137,875 for local non-profit organizations.
“We are still working on some of the charity events and adding some major partners along with Stadion,” Cousart said. “And we are absolutely ecstatic that (Stadion co-founder and CEO) Tim Chapman and (Stadion president) Jud Doherty with Stadion are our title sponsors again as we try to move ahead.”
Prior to moving to the UGA Golf Course with Stadion as its title sponsor, the tournament was known as the Athens Regional Foundation Classic and played at Jennings Mill Country Club in Bogart from 2006-09.
The Stadion Classic at UGA is the lone PGA Tour-sactioned event owned and operated by a university, and along with The South Georgia Classic in Valdosta, is one of only two Web.com Tour events in the state.