There is no momentum for the return of professional golf at the major-tour level to Sacramento.
The departure of Brian Flajole darkens an already bleak picture.
Flajole ran the LPGA Tour’s Longs Drugs Challenge during its 10-year stint in Lincoln and Auburn, along with numerous other LPGA and Champions Tour events across the country. He was the director of the 2015 U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso and the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle.
It’s too good of a market to never say never, but nothing is imminent.
Brian Flajole, on the Sacramento area drawing professional golf events
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The longtime Granite Bay resident was well connected to the major players with each tour and regularly pursued corporate sponsorships that would return tournament golf to Sacramento.
He started a new job Monday as the director of the Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic in Seattle, where he is relocating.
“I recently had several conversations with individuals trying to get something going (in Sacramento),” Flajole said. “I could not get any traction on even taking it to the next step.”
The LPGA and Champions tours are eager to return to the region, and several courses are interested in hosting, Flajole said. The sticking point remains the minimum sponsorship commitment, which he said is in the neighborhood of $2 million.
“It’s too good of a market to never say never,” Flajole said, “but nothing is imminent.”
The Longs Drugs Challenge departed for Danville in 2006, where it lasted for five years. The Champions Tour’s Gold Rush Classic was contested in the Sacramento area from 1987 to 2001.
The LPGA Tour announced this week that the Swinging Skirts Classic, which was played in Daly City for the past three years, will not return. That leaves four major tour events within reasonable driving distance of Sacramento: the Safeway Classic in Napa, the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Barracuda Championship in Reno on the PGA Tour; and the PURE Insurance Championship (formerly the First Tee Open) in Pebble Beach on the Champions Tour.
What is it going to take, other than someone stepping forward to write a big check, to get big-time pro golf back to Sacramento?
“Someone at the course level who wants the event,” Flajole said. “Maybe the sports commission. Somebody who’s basically working it every day.”
I recently had several conversations with individuals trying to get something going (in Sacramento). I could not get any traction on even taking it to the next step.
Morgan Creek clubhouse expanded
The decision to renovate and expand Morgan Creek’s clubhouse had more to do with enhancing the golf experience and enticing more play than increasing beer and burger sales, co-owner and operator Charlie Gibson said.
The Roseville clubhouse was doubled in size to 4,400 square feet and was completed two months ago. The walls behind the old pro shop counter and toward the practice green were pushed out. Seating capacity increased to 102 from 28. There are 12 TVs, granite table tops and myriad other quality finishing touches.
“Somebody is finally investing in the golf business,” Gibson said.
He estimated the renovation cost $750,000. It includes a tower clock, the kind you see at Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes and Firestone, that he just couldn’t do without. It stands near the practice green and adds a touch of class.
“My goal is that people play well, eat well and know what time it is,” Gibson joked.
Gibson also co-owns Wildhorse in Davis and Rocklin Golf Club. The Wildhorse clubhouse is relatively spartan and much of its space unused. He closed Rocklin in August 2015 when a proposal to build 38 new homes on 5 acres of course property was rejected.
Gibson said he had plans to upgrade the clubhouses at both of those courses, but the political climate in Davis is not conducive at Wildhorse and the Rocklin clubhouse was in such disrepair that the proposed development rejection sent him in another direction.