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Colonial at 75: Charles Schwab Challenge celebrates tournament with special events, innovative ticket system

🕐 7 min read

With more than seven decades of golf tradition and Texas history to celebrate, Colonial Country Club’s Charles Schwab Challenge will mark the famed tournament’s 75th anniversary with plenty of special events.

A variety of programming elements ranging from the return of a special Champion’s Prize to new fan engagement programs will lead the festivities surrounding the landmark PGA tour event set for May 27-30.

While the worldwide pandemic postponed last year’s tournament until June, it returns to its traditional timing over Memorial Day weekend and will see fans at the course in limited numbers.

“This tournament has such a significant place in golf – and Texas – history and Charles Schwab is honored to help continue its tradition during this historic 75th anniversary year,” said Jonathan Craig, senior executive vice president, Investor Services & Marketing at Charles Schwab. “From being associated with some of the greatest names to ever play the game, to its position last year as the first sporting event to return amidst the pandemic, the tournament has long held a deeper meaning given its history – and we are excited to once again demonstrate our commitment to Colonial, its fans, and the Dallas-Fort Worth community through our programming this year.”

The winner of the Charles Schwab Challenge this year will again drive off with a new Champion’s Prize to complement the Colonial’s iconic Leonard Trophy and Scottish royal tartan plaid jacket. In the firm’s first year as title sponsor in 2019, a fully renovated and customized 1973 Dodge® Challenger – the car paid homage to the year Schwab was founded – was awarded to tournament champion Kevin Na who, in turn, gave it to his caddie Kenny Harms. More details on what will make the 2021 prize unique will be revealed in the coming weeks.

This year’s Champion’s Prize will be unveiled on Tuesday, May 25.

As the Official Investment Firm of the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions since 1997, Charles Schwab expanded its golf presence by assuming title sponsorship of the PGA TOUR’s annual tournament at Colonial Country Club beginning in 2019. The four-year agreement with the company, which has moved its headquarters to a new 70-acre, LEED-certified campus in Westlake, will run through 2022.

For Tournament Director Michael Tothe, who has been at Colonial since 2008, the backing of Charles Schwab is important.

“Since 2008, we’ve gone through Crowne Plaza, Dean and DeLuca, we self-funded in 2018, which was the Fort Worth Invitational and was kind of fun – but not. And now we’ve got Charles Schwab as our title sponsor. They’re a good partner and they’re committed to Texas. So we’re lucky.”

Charles Schwab has integrated itself into the tournament well, putting not just its name on the event, but creating unique experiences for attendees.

The state-of-the-art fan engagement zone, “The 5: Schwab Performance Center,” will return and showcase the five modern fundamentals of both golf and investing, linking tournament legend Ben Hogan’s ground-breaking approach to the game and Schwab’s modern approach to investing and retirement.

It also will thread together the 75-year history of the tournament with a new, Hogan-themed activation designed to help visitors improve all aspects of their game.

Schwab’s digital content series, “The Challengers,” also returns and continues to highlight several icons in the sport of golf who are challenging the status quo in their own fields. Two of this year’s five episodes directly honor the tournament’s 75th anniversary – one celebrating golf legend Ben Hogan, the tournament’s first champion in 1946; and one featuring The Justs, a Louisville family that makes the finest, handcrafted hickory and persimmon golf clubs in the world – just like Hogan made famous. In addition to other stories that present individuals who challenge the status quo in their respective fields, the series introduces Troy Mullins, a World Long Drive competitor, and focuses on the modern approach she takes with her golf game.

The tournament at Colonial has typically taken place around Memorial Day and this year’s event will pay tribute to the members of the U.S. military who gave their lives in service to their country. During play on Sunday, May 30, a moment of silence will be observed on the course, accompanied by a flyover of military aircraft to further mark the solemn occasion.

Over the decades, the tournament’s champions have included some of the biggest names in golf, among them Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, and of course, Ben Hogan.

In another first for a golf tournament, Charles Schwab has partnered with country music singer/songwriter Travis Denning to write and perform a new, original song inspired by this year’s Champion’s Prize. The Mercury Nashville recording artist began writing the song earlier this year and the lyrics will draw upon Denning’s upbringing while also highlighting elements of the Champion’s Prize.

“As a songwriter, I find inspiration in so many different places – and it was a lot of fun to create a song that is inspired by the one-of-a-kind Champion’s Prize that will be awarded at this year’s Charles Schwab Challenge,” said Denning. “I can’t wait for people to hear the new song and see the new prize and, once they do, they’ll know why I jumped at the chance to be a part of this fantastic program.”

Schwab has also joined forces with TV personality Bobby Bones, the nationally syndicated iHeartRadio host and comedian, who will officially premiere Denning’s song on his popular “Bobbycast” podcast on May 21. Additional content will be shared with Bones’ loyal listeners in the lead-up to the tournament.

The usual skyboxes and private corporate hospitality chalets will not be included at this year’s event. Instead, the tournament will feature two large “Villages” on-course solely for 75th Anniversary Ticket buyers. The $475 Anniversary Ticket allows those attendees to utilize the outdoor venues throughout the day and take advantage of an all-you-can-eat-and-drink amenity. These attendees will also have full complimentary access to on-course concession stands.

The Villages will include socially-distanced and shaded outdoor seating, private waitstaff, TVs and elevated prime viewing on holes 13, 15 and 16. The Palmer Village at #13 is named in honor of 1962 champion Arnold Palmer. The Crenshaw Village at #15 and 16 is named in honor of two-time champion Ben Crenshaw.

“It will be quite a new and unique way to experience our great golf tournament, and our historic 75th anniversary,” said Tournament Chairman Jim Whitten. “The spectators will be able to roam an uncrowded course outside the ropes and watch the world’s best golfers up close like never before, while enjoying our various eating, drinking and relaxation opportunities whenever they want. We expect these tickets will sell out quickly.”

The offerings for 2021 include a clubhouse Patio Club daily hospitality ticket and a 75th Anniversary on-course daily hospitality ticket.

The Patio Club attendees will enjoy their unique hospitality experience in the air-conditioned clubhouse, from the Ballroom and connected outdoor patio that overlooks the 16th green and 17th tee. Their $575 ticket also includes food and beverage in the Club and at on-course concession stands, but does not include admission to the two 75th Anniversary Ticket Villages.

“We’re really selling three tickets, but all three of those tickets are food and beverage included,” said Tothe. “It’s never been done.”

Tothe said the field for the tournament looks strong. Among those entered are former winners Daniel Berger, Keith Clearwater, Sergio Garcia, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Justin Rose, Rory Sabbatini and  Jordan Spieth.

Others in the field include 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed.

Tothe said if you’ve ever wanted to avoid the crowds and really see professional golf at Colonial, this is the year.

“It’s not like you’re going to be battling with 20,000-25,000 people on a daily basis. We’re sort of in the 10,000-12,000 range. So if you have ever wanted to get up close and personal with a PGA Tour player, this is the year,” he said.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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