PGA tries to woo local business

DULUTH - There will be no Professional Golf Association Tour event at the TPC Sugarloaf Country Club this year.

But that didn't stop PGA Tour executives and 60 local golfers from visiting the site of the former AT&T Classic on Monday for a shotgun tournament.

The goal of that event, said Todd Rhinehart, Executive Director of the Tour Championship Presented by Coca-Cola, was to ensure that local business leaders know there is another PGA tournament nearby they can support - The Tour Championship event at East Lake Golf Club, which the PGA owns and operates along with TPC.

The tournament, which occurs in late September, has taken place at East Lake since 2004, serves as the conclusion to the Fed Ex Cup.

"We thought Monday's event was a good opportunity to partner with TPC and to reach out to the community to raise awareness," Rhinehart said. "We've never really targeted the Gwinnett business community so this was a new opportunity for us."

While the AT&T Classic is not slated to return to Gwinnett and the TPC Sugarloaf Country Club anytime soon, that's not saying there won't be an event here sometime in the future.

"Somewhere down the road, we'd love to have a Champions Tour event there or another PGA event," Rhinehart said.

But he said that time is not now because of the state of the economy and since AT&T decided to drop its sponsorship of the event following last year's tournament.

"From the PGA tour perspective, they were trying to find another sponsor but that never materialized," he said. "There were talks of others coming in but because of the state of the economy, it didn't pan out."

Rhinehart said Monday's tournament was more of an opportunity for the PGA and the country club to court new members and corporate sponsors.

Vick Alaprando, the general manager at TPC Sugarloaf, said Monday's event was a success, although not a complete one.

"We didn't sign up any new members," Alaprando said. "But it was a great event that enhanced and continued to build on a great relationship."