PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The PGA Tour added its first new title sponsor since the economic meltdown Thursday and shored up its season opener in Kapalua by announcing a 10-year deal with Korea-based SBS International.
Seoul Broadcasting System also extended by seven years its exclusive agreement to show PGA Tour events in Korea.
The deals run through 2019.
The tour has had mixed economic news this year. It is losing title sponsors in Phoenix, Milwaukee and Florida, while agreeing to contract extensions for four other tournaments through 2014.
But this represents its first new sponsor since the economy’s downturn last fall. SBS is the only media company to be a title sponsor on the PGA Tour, which has relied largely on the automobile and financial industry over the last decade.
“It is significant in the sense that one of the things we are looking at now as we go out two years from now is the focus on perhaps spreading sponsorship over broader industry sectors, and not being so reliant as we have been in the past on the traditional industry sectors that have been supportive,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.
“This certainly is a step in that direction,” he said. “I don’t know how many steps there will be in that direction, but this is one. And we think it’s very positive.”
It also solves what was turning into a quandary in Hawaii.
Mercedes-Benz had been the title sponsor at Kapalua since 1999, but it became clear it would not renew its contract after 2010 when it signed deals to be the official car of the Masters, PGA Championship and the Northern Trust Open.
There also were questions of what to do with the Sony Open, held in Honolulu a week after the season opener. That deal also expires next year, although Finchem noted that 60 percent of the players at Kapalua stay over for Honolulu.
“This will help the climate with Sony,” Finchem said.
The new deal meant Mercedes-Benz was allowed out of its contract one year early. The tour’s deal with Kapalua also was to expire next year, although Finchem said he expects the tournament will be played at Kapalua for the duration of the SBS contract.
Tour officials had been looking at alternative courses on Maui, but that was to appease Mercedes during those contract negotiations.
SBS had been the title sponsor of an LPGA Tournament on Oahu, which ended this year. SBS president Sang Chun said its LPGA deal helped spur interest in golf in Korea, and he expects the same dynamic with its PGA Tour deal.
“This is where we’re trying to make a bigger pie for the PGA Tour in Korea,” Sang said.
The announcement came at a critical time for Kapalua, which had its greens redone a few years ago and last year completed hotel and villa renovations while wondering if it could find a new title sponsor.
“The event has become part of our culture,” tournament chairman Gary Planos said. “We became accustomed to hosting the PGA, and we definitely wanted it to continue. We’re pretty excited to have a bright future with SBS.”
Even so, there was no guarantee it would attract Tiger Woods, who last played in 2005, or Phil Mickelson, who stopped coming after 2001.