Houston Chronicle

Houston Open deal

Next year, event would be played in October at Golf Club of Houston; deal is for five years

- By Dale Robertson

The PGA Tour has accepted in principal Astros owner Jim Crane’s Houston Open sponsorshi­p-package, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly.

The PGA Tour has accepted in principle Astros owner Jim Crane’s Houston Open sponsorshi­p-package proposal, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly.

A finalized deal would ensure the 72-year golf tournament will continue for at least five more years.

The next Houston Open will be played the second week of October at the Golf Club of Houston, where it has been held since 2006, meaning it’s moving to the fall for the first time on a regularly scheduled basis. It will also be the first one not put on by the Houston Golf Associatio­n, which was founded in 1946 in large part to run the event. But Crane has said he would welcome the HGA’s assistance in an ancillary role, whatever that might prove to be.

The HGA was unable to secure a sponsorshi­p package in the two years since Shell pulled out after a 26-year run and had to pay for the 2018 tournament with its cash reserves, which are mostly depleted. The PGA is said to have needed a firm commitment from the HGA no later than June 1.

Crane originally stepped in, he has said previously, to ensure the city didn’t lose a place on the annual PGA Tour calendar. A tournament has been held here every year since 1949.

“We told the PGA that we wanted the option to move it to a better date somewhere down the road,” Crane said recently, “but my goal right now is very simple: Keep the tournament going.”

With the Astros on the road, Crane has been out of the country recently and wasn’t available for comment Monday.

Crane is expected to have 10 or more partners in the deal. Crane

hasn’t previously revealed a dollar amount for the total package, but it might be somewhat less than the $12 million required annually for a spring tournament.

Houston had held down the prized pre-Masters week since 2007 but lost it to the Valero Open in San Antonio going forward because of the sponsorshi­p uncertaint­ies.

A vacant pre-U.S. Open slot had been discussed, but Crane was insistent that Houston’s sultry summer weather wouldn’t be conducive to attracting sizable galleries. Instead, the tournament will apparently be the first or second event of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season.

A scratch golfer and the owner of The Floridian golf club in Palm Bay, Fla., Crane has admitted he hopes to parlay personal friendship­s with elite players such as Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson into a stronger field than might be expected for an early fall event.

Crane said he intends to also head fundraisin­g efforts for a major makeover of the cityowned Memorial Park course with the hopes of moving the tournament there by 2021.

Charities and causes supported by the Astros Foundation will be the beneficiar­ies of the Houston Open’s proceeds. But Crane is expected to ensure the First Tee Foundation, of which he’s a founding board member, will continue to be well-funded, as it has been by the HGA. Houston’s is the largest chapter in the country.

 ?? Reinhold Matay / Associated Press ?? Jim Crane used his connection­s in the business and golf worlds.
Reinhold Matay / Associated Press Jim Crane used his connection­s in the business and golf worlds.

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