After Franklin-Covey pulled out as the title sponsor of the Senior PGA golf tournament that has been held in Utah for 16 years, many folks feared that the longtime tourney's days in Utah were numbered.
Those fears were put to rest Thursday with the announcement that Smith's Food and Drug would be the presenting sponsor of this year's $1 million tournament set for July 31-Aug. 2 at Park Meadows Country Club."We are really excited to be part of this event," said Abel Porter, Smith's Food and Drug Center's President and CEO. "After such a fantastic experience at last year's event, Smith's is committed to being actively involved with the tournament."
The tournament has also been given a new, yet familiar name - the Utah Showdown.
"We're going back to our roots with the Showdown name," said Brad Baldwin of the Friends of Utah Golf, which has helped keep the tournament running the past several years.
From 1987 to 1993 the tournament was called the Showdown Classic before being changed to the Franklin Quest Championship when Franklin Quest took over title sponsorship four years ago.
Last year, Smith's jumped aboard as a presenting sponsor and has increased its commitment this year.
While Smith's is making a substantial financial contribution to be a presenting sponsor - the official name is the Utah Showdown presented by Smith's - it isn't of the magnitude required for title sponsors, which includes several national TV spots on ESPN.
But according to tournament director Bryan Naugle, Smith's commitment goes a long way toward keeping the annual Park City tournament afloat.
"Smith's commitment makes the tournament more than viable in the future," said Naugle. "This allows us to get to the next level. Having a Utah-based company as a sponsor is very important."
Naugle, who worked for the Senior PGA Tour for 12 years, said the Tour "has been very supportive" and "doesn't want to move the tournament." He said the tournament is very popular with the players and the fact that the 2002 Olympics coming, the Senior Tour wants to keep a strong tournament in Park City.
Naugle, who is very close to many Senior players beacuse of his former position on the Senior Tour, said he expects the "best field ever" for the tourney. He said players who have never played in the Utah event, such as Isao Aoki and Jim Colbert, are commited, along with Lee Trevino, Bob Murphy and defending champion Dave Stockton. Naugle also said he has verbal commitments from Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who is part of the group that took over the Park Meadows Country Club last fall.
"Jack told me he'll be here as long as his hip holds up," said Naugle.
The U.S. Senior Open will be played the previous week at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, which will make it convenient for players to make the stop in Utah. Naugle said Johnny Miller, who made his senior debut in last year's tourney, is questionable because of a knee injury sustained earlier this year.
Porter expects Smith's to have a longtime association with the Senior tournament, but said it will be re-evaluated on a "year-to-year basis." Naugle said the tournament is still looking for a title sponsor, but could survive under its present arrangement with a presenting sponsor and several smaller sponsors.
Franklin-Covey will now be the sponsor of the pro-am. Other sponsors include Bank One, Cadillac, KSL, Delta Airlines, Lincoln Financial, Life USA, PacifiCorp, Newspaper Agency Corp., ZCMI, Park City Chamber, Park Meadows Country Club and the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Besides the golf tournament, Smith's will sponsor a hot air balloon launch, a concert and other activities throughout the tournament week.