Our view: Charities lose out as pro golf hits the road

This week's announcement that Gwinnett County will not host a professional golf tournament in 2009 may seem insignificant to people who don't follow the sport. But it's a big loss to the county and the charities that benefited from the tournament.

Some golf fans have even downplayed the loss, saying that Georgia still has The Tour Championship in metro Atlanta and The Masters in Augusta. But those are not Gwinnett's tournaments and they do not help the same charities that the Atlanta Classic Foundation, which has hosted a PGA Tour event every year since 1967, benefits.

The ACF knew it wouldn't host a PGA tournament at Duluth's TPC at Sugarloaf in 2009 after AT&T ended its sponsorship. But the group hoped to get an event on the Champions Tour, the PGA's tour for golfers over the age of 50.

Though sponsorship for a Champions event costs half the amount of a PGA tournament, according to ACF Foundation director Dave Kaplan, the economy made it hard to find a title sponsor.

So with this week's announcement, Gwinnett will be without a pro tournament for the first time since 1997 - when the BellSouth Classic moved here from Marietta. It's a blow to the county, which received nice exposure from national television coverage, but more than that it's a major loss for the charities the foundation has supported.

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

Kaplan said the foundation will pursue a Champions event or another tournament for 2010. It would be a shot in the arm for both the charities and the county if Kaplan's group is successful.

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