Commentary: Thank you Charles Schwab for saving our golf tournament

The first tee at Colonial (Photo by K.P. Wilska)

Charles Schwab Corporation has long prided itself on helping people save and prepare for retirement and enjoying life to its fullest.

Turns out the company is also great at saving golf tournaments. In fact, we might not have a PGA tournament in Fort Worth had Schwab not swooped in and salvaged the historical event at Colonial Country Club in 2018.

The longest running tournament on the PGA Tour at the same course was, for all intents and purposes, on life support after the disaster that was the relationship with Dean & Deluca, which came onboard in 2016. The tournament had enjoyed a nice relationship with title sponsors for many years, so when that one quickly fell apart locals were forced to rally to pull off the 2018 tournament without a title sponsor.

Kudos to them, because, while no one knows for sure, it seems it would be a lot easier to take over an already existing tournament than to try and revive one that’s fallen by the wayside. In the world of sports, a year away can mean a lot of folks forgetting you even existed.

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“I don’t know if you get that in every other city,” Fort Worth Sports Commission Executive Director Jason Sands said. “That shows what a strong community bond we have in Fort Worth.”

Apparently, Schwab was impressed enough to come to the rescue. Now the legendary tournament is known as the Charles Schwab Challenge and remains an economic boon for Fort Worth.

“It put us in a significant bind” when Dean & Deluca pulled out, Tournament Chairman Jim Whitten said. “That was a very trying time for the club and the tournament. The Schwab deal was a blessing.”

Mason Reed, Schwab’s Managing Director of Acquisition and Corporate Marketing, said the timing was perfect for the company to come onboard with Colonial. Schwab had announced the creation of a new campus in Westlake, which has since become Schwab’s national headquarters after many years in San Francisco.

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With approximately 5,600 employees in the area, Schwab officials said, DFW is the company’s largest employment center. Reed said it makes sense for the company, which was already a major sponsor on the PGA Tour, to become a title sponsor.

“The timing just worked out great,” Reed said. “We had a large presence in that area and we’ve had a long history with professional golf for decades, but up until Colonial we had not been a title sponsor. This tournament has such a long and proud history, just like Schwab, so it all made sense.”

Originally, Schwab made a four-year commitment. However, even before this year’s tournament – the last in the initial agreement – was played, the company extended its sponsorship through 2026.

Schwab came onboard shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t forget, so the Charles Schwab Challenge had to be played without spectators in just the second year of the sponsorship. The tournament bounced back strong in 2021 and again this year, although daily visitation in 2022 was still limited to 15,000.

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But those15,000 were people who thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were treated to four days of exciting golf as well as all the festivities that go hand in hand with the historic event at Colonial.

“Across every possible thing we can measure we consider this a big success,” Reed said. “I think it’s a tournament that deserves to be in the consistent state that it’s in now. Fort Worth rallies around the Stock Show and Colonial. They feel a sense of pride in those events.”

Already unique with personal touches such as the plaid jacket awarded to the winner, Schwab works to add its own special touches. The presentation of a classic vehicle to each year’s champion – the 2022 prize was a 1979 Schwab Firebird – makes it even more of a not-to-be-missed stop on the PGA Tour.

And there’s so much more than golf to enjoy during the tournament with fan attractions aplenty. As the son of a World War II veteran, I’m especially appreciative of the tribute the tournament pays to veterans on Memorial Day weekend.

“The stories those vets have as to how they have used the sport of golf is amazing,” Reed said. “I think that’s emblematic of how we take this event seriously. It’s not just a tournament we put our name on.”

Rick Mauch writes regularly for the Fort Worth Business Press covering a wide array of topics, including business, sports and entertainment.