Napa Valley Register article
October 18, 2015 • By Marty James
The PGA Tour will be returning to Napa next year, but not as the Frys.com Open.
Safeway will be the title sponsor and the event, which will have a $6 million purse as part of the FedExCup schedule, will be known as the Safeway Open, according to Jeff Sanders, executive vice president for events and sponsorships for Lagardere Sports and Entertainment.
The Safeway Open will be played at Silverado for at least five years, according to the PGA Tour and Lagardere. The dates for next year, the season-opening event on the PGA Tour, will be Oct. 10-16. The five-year agreement runs through 2020.
“There’s no better place I can think of in October than coming here to the Napa Valley and putting on a golf event that’s got a lot of fun things attached to it,” said Sanders, a former PGA Tour player, who will be the executive director of the new tournament. “With this five-year commitment from Safeway to be the title sponsor, this event now becomes the home of the Safeway Open. We’re really excited about that.
“Silverado’s committed and on board for a minimum of five years.”
Lagardere Sports and Entertainment is headquartered in New York City, and has offices in Los Angeles; Sea Island, Georgia; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Beaverton, Oregon. As a golf event management company, Lagardere represents over 40 players on the PGA Tour, including Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley, Davis Love III and Brandt Snedeker.
Fry’s Electronics has elected to not continue as a title sponsor. This was the ninth year of the Frys.com Open, which was held for two years at Silverado Resort and Spa, four years at CordeValle in San Martin, California, and three years at Grayhawk in Scottsdale, Arizona. Title sponsor Fry’s Electronics is a privately owned retailer with 34 nationwide locations headquartered in San Jose.
Frys.com Open president Duke Butler said Fry’s is taking a leave of absence as title sponsor, with hopes of returning once the Fry’s clubhouse at The Institute in Morgan Hill is completed. The Institute is a private golf course.
“They have a magnificent clubhouse planned,” said Butler. “It’s been delayed a little bit in the permitting process.”
The Frys.com Open staff has been terrific to work with in the transition of events, said Sanders.
“The Frys.com event is a great tournament,” said Sanders. “They’ve set a nice foundation for us, so we’re very thankful for that, to be able to come in here to an event that’s going this well.”
Johnny Miller, one of Silverado’s owners and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, also announced on Golf Channel Sunday the change in title sponsors.
“Being able to partner with Silverado and Safeway and Johnny Miller, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” said Sanders. “We’re thrilled to be able to come in here and be able to work here in this beautiful part of the world.
“It’s great for the Napa Valley and the charities.”
Silverado has a long history of hosting professional tournament golf.
The Kaiser International Open Invitational, a PGA Tour event, was played from 1968-1976. The Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic, a PGA Tour event, was held from 1977-1980. The Transamerica, a Champions Tour event, was played from 1989-2002.
Silverado was once the site of the PGA Tour’s national qualifying school. The Northern California Open was also played here. A major college women’s tournament, the Silverado Showdown, is played in the springtime here.
The winner’s circle here includes Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite, Dave Stockton and Billy Casper.
Miller captured Kaiser titles in 1974 and ’75. He was a 25-time winner on the PGA Tour and has been the lead analyst for NBC Sports’ golf coverage since 1990.
“It all worked out,” said Miller. “It was sort of meant to be. We sort of have something that most other places don’t have. There’s just something about Napa. It’s very relaxing. The pros can just feel that good feeling, good vibes here in Napa.”
The Safeway Open will be played on the North Course, a par-72, 7,203-yard layout. But the South Course will be used for other events, as pro-ams and other activities. The event will be televised by Golf Channel.
“We are delighted to have Safeway involved with the PGA Tour starting in 2016,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a news release. “We have had a tremendous partnership with Albertsons, Safeway’s parent company, on the Web.com Tour, with the Albertsons Boise Open generating more than $1 million for local charities each of the last nine years. The Safeway Open will have a similar model in place to help build on what is already a well-established event in Napa.
“We’d like to thank John Fry, Kathy Kolder and everyone at Fry’s for their tremendous support as title sponsor of the event since its inception in 2007. Thanks to their involvement, the event has become a pivotal stop in the season-long race for the FedExCup and has raised more than $6 million for charity in the last eight years.”
The winner gets an invitation to play in the Masters, the first major of the year, next April.
“To be able to come in, to be able to be here for at least five years, we’re very excited,” said Sanders. “We’re going to really have fun, keep it nice and relaxed to stay with the culture here in the Napa Valley.”
The stature of the Frys.com tournament was elevated by coming to Silverado, said Butler.
“I congratulate Safeway. They’re really getting a wonderful event,” said Butler. “I couldn’t be happier for Johnny Miller and the owners of Silverado and members of Silverado, that the event is staying. Safeway is really getting an outstanding tournament that they will likely make better.”
Lagardere has been involved with 31 events on Web.com Tour. Those have been in Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Jacksonville, Florida.
Safeway had an LPGA Tour event in Oregon and in Arizona for a number of years. This is the first time that Safeway, which is headquartered in Pleasanton, has been the title sponsor of a PGA Tour event.
“All the pieces are together here and we’re just excited to have this opportunity,” said Sanders.