Grand Blanc — The Ally Challenge will have new dates in 2020.
The Champions Tour event at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club will move from September, when it was played in 2018 and 2019, to July 27-Aug. 2 in 2020.
The special tournament announcement came midday during second round action of the three-round contest on Saturday along with the announcement of a five-year extension, which keeps The Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills through 2025.
“When I look back two years ago, and I told our players we were going to be coming back to play here at Warwick, they were so excited, and now I get to tell them that we’ll be here at least until 2025, and it makes our life easy dealing with our players week-in and week-out,” PGA Tour Champions president Brady Miller said.
“When you think about what this event did in its first year and what it’s going to do the second year, there aren’t many events on our tour that are able to do that, so it’s quickly becoming one of the best events on our tour."
The 7,127-yard-par-72 course had a long run hosting the PGA Tour’s Buick Open and has found new life in the senior circuit over the past two years, but in mid-September, the Ally Challenge was always going to compete with football.
The tournament was seen as critical in shaping the field for the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup playoffs, which start in October, but Ally Challenge organizers feel the benefits of moving to July outweigh the downside.
The tournament field is a draw in itself, enticed by a $2 million purse in 2019 (winner: $300,000). It boasts 18 major champions, but that hasn’t stopped tournament officials from doing everything they can to improve attendance.
The par-3 17th at Warwick Hills was unofficially the PGA Tour’s first party hole back in the Buick Open’s days, and for 2019 the Ally Challenge introduced “Birdie Time.” Every time a player in the Champions Tour field makes a birdie at No. 17, it triggers a 17-minute window when select domestic beers are only $2.
Country singer Dierks Bentley played in the Celebrity Shootout, a nine-hole celebrity scramble for charity.
"The 16th at the Phoenix Open is the craziest I've ever seen, but what they're building here is unbelievable," Bentley said about the 17th at Warwick Hills. "With the 17th and 18th here you can tell this is something that's going to become a whole new deal in golf. It's a new thing but you can already tell it's got that party vibe for fans."
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.