Napa Valley Register article
December 11, 2015 • By Marty James
Jeff Sanders is in the business of running golf tournaments.
Sanders, executive vice president for events and sponsorships for Lagardere Sports and Entertainment, has been involved with the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco. It’s one of the Web.com Tour’s original events dating back to 1990.
He has also done the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Open, along with a number of celebrity and charity events.
“Jeff Sanders has run over 300 tournaments over the years,” said Johnny Miller, a World Golf Hall of Fame member and one of the owners of Silverado Resort and Spa. “Jeff is a genius at raising charitable money to give at the end of the year.”
Sanders plans to be spending a lot of time in Napa in the coming months, preparing for the Safeway Open, a PGA Tour event that replaces the Frys.com Open. It will be held Oct. 10-16, 2016 on the North Course at Silverado. It’s the season-opening event on the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 schedule.
The PGA Tour announced in October that Safeway is the new title sponsor of the Safeway Open, formerly known as the Frys.com Open. The five-year agreement runs through 2020 with the event remaining at Silverado for the duration.
“When we knock it out of the park here, this event will go on much longer than five years,” Sanders said during an event for Silverado members Tuesday night. “I’d just like to thank the membership here at Silverado. I’d like to thank the ownership at Silverado, for letting us come here and play this golf tournament at such a wonderful place.”
Sanders is the executive director of the Safeway Open. 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.
“This is the place to play,” said Sanders, a former PGA Tour player who played college golf with Peter Jacobsen at the University of Oregon. “Everything is built-in here. This is a coast to coast event. This event will be promoted throughout the entire United States. I expect people to come here from everywhere, and why wouldn’t you?
“You’ve got the best weather. You’ve got a great golf course. You’ve got everything.”
The Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco claimed the prestigious President’s Award, given annually to the Tournament of the Year. The award was announced at the PGA Tour’s annual tournament meetings in Miami on Dec. 2.
“Jeff Sanders and his team have delivered one of our top events for over 25 years, and eclipsed their own lofty standards this past year on a number of successful fronts,” Web.com Tour President Bill Calfee said in a news release.
The Safeway Open will have a $6 million purse and is part of the FedExCup schedule.
“We at Silverado, the ownership and our 600-plus employees are going all in on this,” said Miller. “We think it’s good for us, the members, homeowners, local charities and the entire Napa Valley.”
Fry’s Electronics 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, 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.
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.
“I think the fact that we have a PGA Tour event here now is a good indicator of some of the things we’ve accomplished, just the improvements we’ve made here at Silverado,” said Miller.
As part of a re-design, Miller lengthened the par-72 North Course, stretching it out to 7,203 yards. The driving range has also been expanded.
“Having the Frys tournament here was great and we were really lucky to get it,” said Miller. “Having the Frys here for those two years sort of helped put Silverado Resort back on the map.
“Having a PGA Tour event here is a really big deal to us. The most important result of having the Frys here for two years is that it put us in position to host the Safeway Open for five years. It’s very unusual to get a tournament for five years, especially right out of the box. I can’t thank Safeway enough.”
Emiliano Grillo, a graduate of the Web.com Tour who is from Argentina, made a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to beat Kevin Na and win the season-opening, $6 million Frys.com Open on the North Course in October. He earned $1,080,000, the biggest payday of his professional career. He receives an invitation to play in the Masters, the first major of the season, in April. He also gets 500 FedExCup points.
Grillo’s 23-foot birdie putt on the final hole gave him a 3-under-par 69, vaulting him from a fourth-place tie at the end of the third round to the top of the leaderboard, to a share of the lead after 72 holes, and securing his spot in the tournament playoff.
In his first start as a rookie and in only his seventh career start on the PGA Tour, Grillo finished 15-under 273 over four days on a very tough course.
It was the first event in the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule that bridges two years with 43 official regular season events. Over the span of 43 weeks, players vie to become the FedExCup champion, which distinguishes the one player who not only performs well during the PGA Tour regular season, but also excels through the four-event FedExCup Playoffs, culminating with the 2016 Tour Championship by Coca-Cola.
Sanders said over 30 Napa Valley wineries have already become sponsors of the tournament, which will also need 1,200 volunteers.
“Having the volunteer support is crucial, critical,” said Miller.