McIlroy-Fowler match in Detroit won't go off

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Rory McIlroy

A bid to bring PGA Tour golf to southeast Michigan, in the form of an under-the-lights June exhibition involving Tour stars Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, has failed.

Detroit Golf Club’s executives informed members Friday that the event, which had been targeted for June 7, was canceled when negotiations between the event’s sponsor, Quicken Loans, and the participants failed to reach a deal.

“We were informed, yesterday, that due to circumstances beyond our control the proposed event featuring Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler that was to be played at the Detroit Golf Club will not be happening,” Detroit Golf Club president Owen Nagy said in a statement. “This is obviously disappointing news for all of us at Detroit Golf Club. I’d like to thank all of our members whom were involved and (club executive) Michael Strain for their efforts over the past months to do our part, as the venue, to try to make the event happen.

"Unfortunately, as the venue, we had no influence in the discussions or any decisions that were made relative to finalizing the agreements for the proposed event.”

McIlroy and Fowler were to have been the golf headliners at a novel, night-time match played beneath portable lights and televised by Golf Channel and by CBS.

They were to have been joined by two celebrity golfers in an 18-hole square-off. Among the celebrities considered were two stars with acknowledged golf skills and passion: singer-actor Justin Timberlake and actor-producer Mark Wahlberg, who, not coincidentally, is scheduled in 2016 to open a Wahlburgers restaurant in Greektown, a franchise from his personally owned chain.

Quicken Loans representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But in an email response to Crain's Detroit Business, John Perich, Quicken's public relations manager, said: “As was previously stated by our company, a golf event was under very preliminary consideration; however, conversations never progressed to a stage where they warranted widespread speculation.

Rickie Fowler

“We remain committed to creating unique events, and are continuing to pursue a number of potential opportunities that not only create excitement, but also shine a spotlight on the revitalization and vibrancy of Detroit.”

DGC apparently became victim of high-end bargaining beyond its control. DGC officials and members had wanted desperately to seal a Tour deal but were not involved in negotiations.

DGC, a 117-year-old golf landmark in the Palmer Woods area of Detroit, was to have received a rental fee from the proceeds and was otherwise detached from substantive business conversations.

The inability to pull off June’s event means southeast Michigan’s Tour golf drought continues. The Buick Open, in Grand Blanc, ceased operations in 2009 and was the last PGA Tour event in Michigan.

Oakland Hills Country Club, in Bloomfield Hills, will host August’s United States Amateur Championship, but not since 2008, when the PGA Championship was played there, has Oakland Hills staged a major championship or high-profile professional event.

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