Napa Valley Register article
June 9, 2016 • By Marty James
Jeff Sanders arrived in Napa last fall with some goals for the Safeway Open, a PGA Tour event at Silverado Resort and Spa.
“We wanted to make sure this that event was more than a PGA Tour golf event – that it had some other fun things going on,” Sanders said Monday at a VIP sponsor appreciation outing.
The theme of the Safeway Open, a $6 million event that kicks off the 2016-17 schedule, is food, wine, music and golf. It’s scheduled for Oct. 10-16 on the par-72, 7,203-yard North Course.
“We think we’re positioned beautifully as the first tournament of the year and we expect to get some great players here,” said Sanders, executive vice president for events for Lagardere Sports and Entertainment, a golf event management company. “We’re going to be announcing our first big-name player at the end of this month.”
This will be the third straight year of the PGA Tour at Silverado, which has a long history of having hosted professional tournament golf, dating back to the late 1960s. The PGA Tour announced last year 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, which is part of the FedExCup schedule, remaining at Silverado for the duration.
“We realize that the PGA Tour is the greatest golf in the world. We will have a terrific field,” said Sanders. “The players love coming to Napa Valley. The players love coming to Silverado.
“We want the local people to embrace their tournament. We want them to all know about it. This is going to be Napa’s tournament.”
Fry’s Electronics, a privately owned retailer with 34 nationwide locations headquartered in San Jose, elected to not continue as a title sponsor.
Sangmoon Bae of the Republic of Korea (2014) and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (2015) each won at the Frys.com Open at Silverado.
The Kaiser International Open Invitational, a PGA Tour event, was played from 1968-1976 at Silverado. The Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic, a PGA Tour event, was held here 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.
“To get the Safeway Open, it seems like it was meant to be,” said Johnny Miller, who is one of Silverado’s owners and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. “It seems like everything was just meant to be. The players just love coming to Napa Valley and to Silverado, to be able to stay at the condos, and to do all that they do in the Valley, with all the great food and the wine tours and all that.”
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.
The winner of the Safeway Open, which will be televised by Golf Channel, gets an invitation to play in the Masters, the first major of the year, in April of 2017.
“Our team has done just a really great job of transforming this event and I think taking a little bit different direction and hopefully to a new level,” said Sanders, a former PGA Tour player who is the executive director of the tournament. “We’ve just been amazed at the support we’ve had. It’s been really terrific in the community. So many people are behind the event.”
The Safeway Food and Wine Pavilion, a 28,000-square foot facility, will be built and located behind the No. 1 green and adjacent to the second tee and 17th green.
“Our goal is that all of our spectators, all of our golf fans, feel like sponsors and are treated like sponsors,” said Sanders. “We’re very focused on the spectator experience. Napa is known for its hospitality and obviously its world class food and wine.
“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.”
The goal, said Bob Miller, the chairman and CEO of Albertsons Companies, LLC, a North American grocery company, is to raise at least $2 million for charities. The PGA Tour and its tournaments generated a record $160 million for charity in 2015, marking the first time they surpassed the $150 million mark in a single year. This total includes donations made by tournaments on the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions,Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour China and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
Safeway had an LPGA Tour event in Oregon and in Arizona for a number of years. This is the first time that Safeway has been the title sponsor of a PGA Tour event.
“We’re going to work hard to get a lot of fans,” said Bob Miller. “We’re going to have lots of food. We’re going to have lots of the wineries that are supporting us out there. We think it’s going to be a great event.
“It’s a classic place. I love the beautiful big trees. I really like the (ownership) partners. They are dedicated to making that a first-class resort and I think they’ve had lots of improvements since they have been in charge.”
The Safeway Open has over 100 sponsors. Over 35 hospitality sky-box suites will be set up over the final three holes.
A concert will follow each of the first three rounds of the tournament.
On Oct. 13, it’s Rockers X Ambassadors. On Oct. 14, it’s Charles Kelley, the lead singer of Lady Antebellum. On Oct. 15, it’s Capital Cities.
“We’re fortunate to be able to put on this golf tournament here at Silverado,” said Sanders. “We’re looking forward to the next four months being a great run. Hopefully, we’ll have huge crowds in October. We want it to be more than a golf tournament, and we want to do it in Napa-style.”