PGA Tour makes '19 tourney official, calls Detroit a 'perfect fit'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
The PGA Tour officially announced Wednesday that it will hold a tournament in Detroit, starting in 2019.

The PGA Tour is driving into the Motor City.

For the first time ever, the city of Detroit will host a PGA Tour event, starting in June 2019, the PGA Tour and the event's title sponsor, Quicken Loans, announced Wednesday afternoon.

Detroit Golf Club, whose membership recently overwhelmingly voted to pursue the tournament, is widely expected to be the host venue, as The News first reported in late April. The sides are still working to finalize the details, financially and otherwise, of that agreement.

"It's a market we always wanted to go back to and we’re thrilled that we will now have that chance,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. “Given that an integral part of our mission is to generate significant charitable and economic impact in communities in which we play, this is such a perfect fit. The revival of Detroit, in part thanks to the leadership at Quicken Loans and its family of companies, is incredible and we’re thrilled to be part of it with this new event.”

The Detroit tournament is expected to take the place of The National on the PGA Tour's schedule. The National has been played in suburban Washington D.C., at various venues, since 2007. 

Quicken Loans, founded by Detroit billionaire booster Dan Gilbert, was the title sponsor of The National from 2014-17, but held off extending the contract as Gilbert pursued the long-desired move to Detroit. With the Detroit deal finalized, Quicken Loans has agreed to be the title sponsor for The National one more time, for this year's June 28-July 1 tournament. The PGA Tour said Wednesday that it will continue to explore opportunities to keep a tournament in the D.C. area.

The PGA Tour's initial agreement with Detroit is a four-year deal. The first tournament is expected to be June 27-30, 2019.

Quicken Loans officials told The News' Bob Wojnowski earlier this month that they are planning for a multi-week event, complete with concerts and other attractions, with the golf tournament as the centerpiece. Chicago-based Intersport, a sports and entertainment marketing firm, is working alongside Quicken, particularly on the supporting entertainment events.

“This tournament will not only bring together some of the best golfers in the world, it also highlights the breathtaking revitalization happening throughout Detroit,” Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner said in a statement. “There is an undeniable energy in the city that we are eager to showcase. This event will introduce hundreds of thousands of visitors to the vibrant art, restaurants, architecture, nightlife and atmosphere that you can only find right here in Detroit.”

The Quicken Loans Foundation will be the main charity benefiting from the Detroit tournament; the Tiger Woods Foundation was the main charity at The National. It's unclear if Woods will continue his alliance with the tournament when it moves to Detroit. Rickie Fowler, a spokesman for Rocket Mortgage, a subsidiary of Quicken Loans, could headline the player field.

Detroit Golf Club is a 36-hole facility, with the North Course likely to be used for the tournament. The one possible exception is the first hole; No. 1 on the South might be used to add length to the layout, which like many century-old courses is modest in yardage by today's standards. Renovations and upgrades to the course are planned, including several new tee boxes, with the club footing the bill.

The 119-year-old club, located between Woodward and Livernois avenues and south of Seven Mile Road, would become the oldest course on the PGA Tour schedule. The Donald Ross-designed course would replace "The Old White" course at The Greenbrier in West Virginia; that course is 115 years old.

Derek Jacques, COO of Detroit Golf Club, wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday.

There was no immediate word on ticket information, or how much the purse, or prize money, would be for the tournament. This year's National has a purse of $7.1 million, better than average. Typically, the bigger the purse, the more attractive a tournament is for the biggest stars. Fan parking is expected to be at the State Fairgrounds and Palmer Park.

The PGA Tour is returning to Michigan for the first time since 2009, when the Buick Open was held for the last time, collateral damage amid the auto industry's collapse.

"I used to get that every week on the Tour, 'When we going back?' They always liked coming up to Michigan," said Lake Orion's Tom Gillis, 49, a longtime PGA Tour member.

"They love coming to Michigan in the summer. It's a good time of year."

Of the long Michigan void on the schedule, players would "always say, 'It makes no sense,'" Gillis said.

Brian Stuard, 35, a Jackson native and Oakland University alumnus, first started playing regularly on the PGA Tour in 2010, the year after the Buick folded.

Speaking Wednesday from The Memorial, Jack Nicklaus' annual PGA Tour tournament this week in suburban Columbus, Ohio, Stuard called the announcement, "definitely pretty exciting to me, for sure."

"As somebody who never got to play in the Buick at Warwick, it's gonna be pretty fun to be able to play a Michigan PGA Tour event," Stuard said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Stuard said it's been a while since he's played at Detroit Golf Club, and he said he's intrigued how the PGA Tour sets it up for competition. He acknowledged that it will be shorter than your typical PGA Tour course, but he said other "shorter" courses on Tour, such as Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., or Colonial Country Club, site of last week's tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, still can pose challenges.

"It's gonna be interesting," Stuard said.

This Detroit tournament will give the state of Michigan five annual major professional golf stops, including three on the LPGA Tour (Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and a new event in Midland starting in 2019), and one on the Champions Tour (in Grand Blanc, the old home of the Buick Open, starting in September). The Champions Tour also has an every-other-year agreement to host its Senior PGA Championship, a major, at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor. That tournament was held last weekend.

Also, the Symetra Tour, the LPGA Tour's developmental circuit (similar to the PGA Tour's Tour), has two tournaments in Michigan this year: the Island Resort Championship outside Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula in June and the Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship in Battle Creek in August.