March 12, 2013

Air Capital Classic golf looks at operating without title sponsor

One of the oldest golf tournaments on the Tour has a new name and an operating plan that is somewhat fluid.

One of the oldest golf tournaments on the Tour has a new name and an operating plan that is somewhat fluid.

Tournament officials introduced the Air Capital Classic – formerly known as the Wichita Open – during a luncheon Tuesday at Crestview Country Club. The tournament will be played June 13-16 on Crestview’s North course for $650,000 in prize money.

The name change marks the end of the event’s title sponsorship agreement with Preferred Health Systems, which started 12 years ago. Tournament director Roy Turner said the 2013 event does not have a title sponsor. Air Capital Charities, a newly formed non-profit organization, will lead and operate the tournament.

Preferred Health Systems remains one of the tournament’s primary sponsors and Brad Clothier, its chief operating officer, is on the Air Capital Charities board.

“It’s a radical change in that with Preferred Health Systems, you got pretty set in your ways in who you report to, how you do it, that sort of thing,” Turner said. “We’ve got a good group of people who are on board with this plan. This community owes an awful lot to the aircraft industry, and this is a way we can recognize that.”

As part of the plan, Turner is soliciting additional tournament sponsorship through the newly created Air Capital Ambassadors program. The $30,000 sponsorship option is roughly 10 percent of the cost of a title sponsorship, and is a community-based approach toward financing the event and its charities.

“It’s fairly unique,” said Tim Benton, vice president of business affairs for the PGA Tour, who attended the luncheon. “Our business model, fundamentally, is to find a title sponsor. But increasingly, with the economy the way it is, we definitely are looking at other business models that may work.

“I think locally this is one that people felt strongly about.”

The tournament changes parallel new procedures in the Tour this season. took over the tour’s umbrella sponsorship from Nationwide Insurance shortly after last year’s Wichita Open. This year, the tour’s calendar is divided into a 21-event regular season – which includes the Air Capital Classic – and a four-tournament series that combines and PGA Tour members to decide spots on the PGA Tour for 2014.

At Crestview, the spectator experience will still be fun-driven, Turner said. He told luncheon attendees he plans to construct four additional skyboxes on the festive par-3 17th hole.

A driving force for Turner toward securing the tournament’s future is its contributions to local charities. The event has raised more than $850,000 since 2006, including $200,000 in 2012.

“This lays a platform that’s larger, bigger and stronger, and allows us to have room to grow,” Benton said. “This tournament has done tremendous things. It’s a key part of our tour.”

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