After 51 years the Buick Open is no more, a victim of the economy in more ways than one. Just a few years ago, no one would have dreamed that GM and Chrysler would have declared bankruptcy. But here we are. The speed of the thing was breathtaking.
In the aftermath, we need to be clear about one thing: the Buick Open is kaput. There will not be a Buick Open in the near, or for that matter the distant, future. There's no money, and even if there were, it would not be spent on a professional golf tournament. While it's true that GM still needs to funnel money into promotional platforms and advertise its products, golf is not the vehicle of choice. Accurate or not, and probably not, golf is still perceived as an elitist sport.
What of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, the company's February Tour stop? Believe it or not, GM still thought it could negotiate a reduction in the fees associated with sponsoring the tournament. Why? Because it's GM, damn it! But the Century Club, the San Diego nonprofit that administers and promotes the Invitational, owns the rights to the event and is getting hit with operational cost increases. It needs to find a partner it can depend on to help meet the increased monetary demands, and it won't be Buick.
What bothered me the most, however, were the performances of Larry Peck, Buick's golf marketing manager, and Susan Docherty, a Buick vice president, at this week's Buick Open broadcast on both the Golf Channel and CBS. Neither of them would answer any direct questions about the future of the tournament, even though they both knew that neither Buick nor GM had any intent of continuing its support. They consistently and persistently ducked any attempt to explain their position going forward.
Wouldn't it have been nice to say to all the volunteers, club members, sponsors, vendors and fans that this was it, thanks for the memories and good luck? I would have preferred it if they'd just been straight with the audience: "Listen, we simply can't afford this kind of promotional expense anymore and we're done after today. We've had a great run and we wish the charities, the club, the sponsors and the fans all the luck in the world. Let's have a great final performance and party hard after our grand finale."
So there it is: 51 years and not even so much as a decent goodbye. The largest company in the free world goes bankrupt, abrogates their contracts and can't even find the dignity to stand up, look you in the eye and say, "Thanks, we know you worked hard for us and we appreciate it. You're the best and we wish it could have turned out better. Good luck."
I'm not from Detroit originally, but I've been here 25 years, and I've always been a proud defender of this city and the industry that drives it. Until today. I was the executive director of the Buick Open for eight years and have experienced first hand the dedication of the people involved, and my heart breaks for them. Not because they've lost the Open, but because they have been treated so shabbily by the company they thought respected them.
They deserve and have earned the right to an honest answer to their questions. How unfortunate the "New GM" was incapable of providing it.