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Stricker, Kelly trying to save Milwaukee tournament

AKRON, Ohio — One tournament’s misfortune is another tournament’s lucky break, and vice versa. The Buick Open, a history-rich stop on the PGA Tour in Flint, Mich., is no more, thanks to the downward spiral of General Motors. Buick dropped its sponsorship last week, which opened the door for the Greenbrier Resort, under new ownership, to step up and score the Buick Open’s date on next year’s PGA Tour schedule.The Greenbrier’s good news, in turn, didn’t sound so good for the now-sponsorless tour stop in Milwaukee. Originally known as the Greater Milwaukee Open, which had been retitled the U.S. Bank Championship in recent years. U.S. Bank opted not to renew its sponsorship after this year due to declining interest and attendance, which coincided with the tournament’s switch to a date that conflicted with the British Open. That date guaranteed a weak field and a lack of big names, including state stars such as Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, although Kelly passed on the British Open this year to play in the final U.S. Bank Championship.Kelly and Stricker are trying to help organize a new tour stop and there was speculation that it was aiming at the Buick Open’s date. That is not the case, Kelly and Stricker said. The Greenbrier’s new tournament doesn’t affect the Wisconsin bid.“We weren’t in any position to get that [Buick] date,” Stricker said after he finished his round at the Bridgestone Invitational. “We had no sponsors yet. It was sad to see that tournament go, but we were in no position for that spot. Things are looking good. We’ve got a potential sponsor, but we need a date. We’re going to have a meeting with the sponsor and the tour and if we get a good date, I think the sponsor is going to do it.”Kelly, who spoke briefly after his round, added, “The Greenbrier doesn’t hurt us. We can massage the dates. We’re confident that if we bring a sponsor to the table, the PGA Tour will reciprocate and get us a date. Especially in ’11, that’s the big one we’re looking towards. If everything falls into place, a single-year miss would be just fine with us. Let’s hope we limit it to that and go forward.”The two players have asked to keep the unfinalized details private and declined to identify a potential sponsor but published reports have suggested the new tournament, possibly called the Greater Wisconsin Open, might rotate around several courses in the Milwaukee area, Madison and Kohler, beginning in 2011. It is expected that several other PGA tournaments may lose sponsorship in ’11 and dates on the schedule will become available. For the Milwaukee event, it all hinges on landing a sponsor. That hasn’t happened yet but both players remain hopeful.“We could come out of this looking better than when we went into it,” Stricker said.A lot of golf fans in Badgerland hope he’s right.

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by Kevin Cunningham