It's time that the PGA Tour returns to Wisconsin.
Can't be done, you say? Then explain to me how the Quad-Cities, a metro market less than a quarter the size of Milwaukee, can sustain a PGA tournament.
The Quad-Cities, which straddles the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa, is home to the John Deere Classic. The tournament is held at the TPC at Deere Run in the suburb of Silvis.
Full disclosure here: my journalism career included a stop in the Quad-Cities, and I still have many friends there. Our youngest son was born in Silvis. And I know first-hand the importance the John Deere Classic has on the Quad-Cities community.
In 2011, the John Deere Classic helped generate $5.3 million for about 500 charities in and around the Quad-Cities region. Numbers for 2012 are not in yet.
The full annual economic impact of the tournament on the Quad-Cities region is estimated at $25 million.
This year's John Deere Classic paid a purse of $4.6 million to the participating golfers.
The event is made possible by the help of some 1,500 volunteers.
A quick glance at the list of winners of the John Deere Classic in the past decade is impressive: J.P. Hayes, Vijay Singh, Mark Hensby, Sean O'Hair, John Senden, Jonathan Byrd, Kenny Perry, Madison's Steve Stricker (three times) and Zach Johnson.
Deere & Co.'s world headquarters are based in the Quad-Cities in Moline. Of course, Deere has a natural, logical relationship with the game of golf. Its equipment is used to manicure the PGA's golf courses throughout the country. The company uses the tournament to promote its brand and to treat its employees, dealers, customers and vendors.
By contrast, the Milwaukee PGA stop ended in 2009 after 41 years, largely a victim of the Great Recession.
Wisconsin pro golfers Stricker and Jerry Kelly have been advocates of bringing the PGA tour back to the state, but so far have been unable to get it done.
So, what will it take to bring the PGA back to Wisconsin?
"What Milwaukee needs is a John Deere – a sponsor that is fully committed," said John Deere Classic spokesman Barry Cronin. "The key to it all is John Deere."
Who could be Milwaukee's John Deere? Well, Deere manufactures and sells consumer goods that have a natural, logical connection to the game of golf.
The closest facsimile Milwaukee has would be ... Harley-Davidson Inc. I submit that a healthy share of the folks who own and ride Harleys also golf.
The short list of other logical potential sponsors for the PGA in Wisconsin would include Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Inc., Johnson Controls Inc., S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., Kohl's Corp., ManpowerGroup and Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. Other potential players might include BMO Harris Bank, Associated Banc-Corp and American Family Insurance, as well as Wisconsin golf course developers Herbert Kohler of Kohler Co. and Andrew Ziegler of Artisan Partners LLC, who are bringing U.S. Opens to the state.
The naming rights sponsorship for a PGA tournament stop costs $7 million to $10 million annually, Cronin said.
I realize that it's all too easy for me to be so generous with other people's money. But it's time. Let's bring the PGA back to Wisconsin.
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