'Beyond special': Rocket Mortgage Classic here to stay, through 2027, and probably beyond

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — It was a whirlwind 24 hours for Bryson DeChambeau, who rushed from a historic Ryder Cup win in Wisconsin on Sunday evening to get to Detroit on Monday morning.

The game's longest hitter was at Detroit Golf Club to celebrate the long-term future of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit's first-ever PGA Tour stop which has been extended through 2027.

Rickie Fowler has served as the unofficial host of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

That marks a nine-year commitment from the PGA Tour, with the fourth playing of the tournament, and of the original four-year deal, scheduled for July 28-31, 2022.

"What you guys have done for this community," said DeChambeau, "is beyond special," adding that the Rocket Mortgage Classic is "one of the most premier stops on the PGA Tour."

DeChambeau, who helped lead the Americans to a 19-11 stomping of the Europeans in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, closed with: "The one thing I've gotta say is, go USA!"

DeChambeau and fellow Rocket Mortgage brand ambassadors Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson were in attendance for the announcement, which coincided with the tournament's annual Fall Classic. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was in town, seated next to Rocket Mortgage CEO Jay Farner.

The extension was agreed upon last week, with Detroit Golf Club members voting through the weekend.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic will be the second-longest continuous annual PGA Tour stop in Michigan history, after the old Buick Open, which lasted a half-century near Flint.

"To say that we are grateful would be an understatement," Monahan said. "We're proud to be your partner.

"Our players have taken note. Detroit is a special stop on the PGA Tour."

The Rocket Mortgage Classic long has been the vision of Dan Gilbert, who spent tens of millions sponsoring the PGA Tour and a tournament outside Washington D.C. since 2014 in hopes of bringing a tournament into the city. That became a reality in 2019.

The tournament has had an up-and-down run, because of the pandemic. It drew huge galleries its inaugural year, none because of COVID-19 in Year 2, and more big crowds this past summer, buoyed by the appearance of Phil Mickelson.

The tournament also has raised more than $4 million for charities, most of which has been earmarked for the city of Detroit, including the prime effort, "Changing the Course," which aims to put an end to Detroit's digital divided by 2025. This year's charity numbers will be announced next month.

"We believe passionately about the work that we are doing here," said Farner, noting Gilbert's commitment to the PGA Tour, and Detroit's stop, extends past $100 million (title sponsors are believed to pay more than $10 million a year). "Dan Gilbert always taught us, not everything that counts can be counted."

Other dignitaries on hand for Monday's announcement at DGC included former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, who coordinates the massive volunteer effort of the RMC; Jason Langwell, tournament director; and representatives with Detroit PAL, First Tee, Midnight Golf and the Detroit Sports Commission. There were representatives who put on the inaugural John Shippen tournament in 2021, it giving exemptions into the Rocket Mortgage Classic and two LPGA Tour events, creating opportunities for Black golfers. One of the inaugural women's winners, Flint's Shasta Averyhardt, also was at the announcement.

DeChambeau, whose wild travel ride was to continue later Monday as he heads to Nevada for the start of a multi-day Long Drive Contest, won the RMC in 2020, a springboard to his U.S. Open championship later that year. Nate Lashley won the inaugural event, and Australian Cam Davis won in a three-man, five-hole playoff in 2021. The tournament has featured other big names like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama and others throughout the years, and given the event's reputation for hospitality and a classic golf course, more stars will be inclined to come in the future, Fowler and Monahan said.

The real winner, meanwhile, has been he city of Detroit, if you ask any dignitary in attendance Monday. The city's revival has been showcased on TV and in national publications during tournament week, and the residents have benefited from the charity endeavors throughout the years.

And there's more to do on that front, all parties agree.

"To see what the vision was coming to Detroit ... that was a dream," said Fowler, a Rocket pitchman for many years, who gladly serves as the unofficial host during tournament week.

"To see it happen and where we are now, is awesome."

We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984