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Course loses '09 golf tourney
Organizers hope for senior event in '10

Plans for professional golf in Gwinnett County next year have morphed from a PGA Tour event to a Champions Tour event to no event at all.

The Atlanta Classic Foundation learned Wednesday that it will not host a Champions Tour at the TPC at Sugarloaf in 2009 as it had hoped. The volunteer organization had planned on a senior event, but the current economic state made it difficult to find a title sponsor.

Although the PGA Tour and the Atlanta foundation searched other options without a title sponsor, none worked out and the tournament was scratched from the 2009 schedule.

When AT&T ended its sponsorship of the local PGA Tour stop after the 2008 tourney, the search began for a Champions Tour event sponsor.

"For our charities and our volunteers, it's regrettable," said Dave Kaplan, director of the Atlanta Classic Foundation. "When AT&T discontinued its sponsorship, we searched for a sponsor and could not find one because of the state of the economy. We continued to pursue a sponsor for a Champions Tour event and then the economy got worse."

It takes an estimated $7 million for title sponsorship of a PGA Tour event. Kaplan wouldn't confirm that figure, but did say it takes "less

than half" the money to

sponsor a Champions Tour event as it does for a PGA Tour stop.

Sugarloaf has hosted a PGA Tour event under two different names - BellSouth Classic and AT&T Classic - every year since 1997. But the Atlanta Classic Foundation has hosted an Atlanta tour stop since 1967.

Since 1989, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has received more than $14 million from the PGA event, while other charities have received an additional $3 million.

"The biggest losers in all of this are our charities," Kaplan said. "We do this to put on a good event for the community and for our charities. The ones hurt the worst by this are those charities."

Although Gwinnett will be without a high-level golf tourney next year, there is hope for the future. Kaplan said the Atlanta Classic Foundation will continue to pursue a Champions Tour event or another opportunity for 2010.

"It's unfortunate for our staff and everybody involved in this (that we don't have a tournament)," Kaplan said. "I've been doing this for 26 years and it's become a fabric of my life. The thing I'm going to miss the most is the people. You become so much a family when you do this with the staff and the volunteers."