While Air Capital Classic golfers worked on the greens to earn prize money at Crestview Country Club, Jack Pelton and others maneuvered through crowded corporate sky boxes to try to secure the financial future of the Web.com Tour event.
Pelton, the retired Cessna Aircraft Co. CEO and co-chairman of the Air Capital Charities, Inc. board, said Sunday he is confident a community-based approach to the tournament’s sponsorship will allow the week-long event to reach its 25th anniversary in 2014 and beyond.
“For me, it’s real personal,” Pelton said after participating in a champagne toast for tournament champion Scott Parel with Crestview members. “For our community, I think it’s just critical. Since I’m retired, I’ve got some time to make sure we get it done.”
During the week, tournament director Roy Turner and board members met with existing and prospective sponsors to discuss the benefits of involvement with the tournament. The Air Capital Classic is one of four that have been part of the PGA Tour’s top developmental tour since its inception in 1990.
This year’s tournament was played with a new name after the end of a decade-long title sponsorship agreement with Preferred Health Systems. No replacement for PHS and its six-figure annual commitment was found. In March, Turner announced the creation of the Air Capital Ambassadors program, a $30,000 annual commitment designed to give multiple community businesses a stake in the event.
Tournament officials hope to secure multi-year commitments from Ambassadors. Three local businesses have signed agreements so far.
“This week was an excellent opportunity to show to many, many companies what this event can do for them from a marketing standpoint and from the ability to host clients,” Pelton said. “It’s probably the best tournament we’ve had in the 24 years.”
Turner said before the tournament he would like to have 10 Ambassadors in place by Sept. 1. The PGA Tour will announce its 2014 schedule in the fall.
“I feel good about it,” Pelton said. “I know it’s tough for Roy. It puts him in an awkward position. But we as members of the board have an obligation to go out and solicit people in the community and get them signed up, and really get this thing secured not for next year, but for many years down the road.”
From the other side – Unlike the leaders, Rob Oppenheim started the final round on Crestview’s back nine. He reeled off six consecutive birdies and eight overall en route to a 65 that earned him a tie for 11th at 10 under.
Oppenheim started his birdie streak on the par-4 16th and ended it at the par-4 third. He fell one short of the tournament record of seven consecutive birdies by Rocky Walcher in 2000 at Willowbend.
Long for the tour – Missouri product Jace Long tied for seventh in his pro debut after making it through Monday qualifying. He earned $19,581.25, and his top-25 finish advanced him to the tour’s next event, the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course,” said Long, days removed from his collegiate career with the Tigers. “It’s been one of the best weeks of my life.”
Etc. – All four golfers with Kansas connections in the field finished in the top 25. Wichita State product Dustin Garza (68) and former Kansas golfer Chris Thompson (69) tied for seventh. Derby’s Woody Austin (68) and Kansas State’s Aaron Watkins (66) tied for 22nd