Dean & DeLuca Invitational
May 23 – 29
The Fort Worth tournament has a unique connection to one of the game’s greatest names, Ben Hogan. The first Colonial National Invitation in 1946 was won by Hogan, and, if that weren’t enough, he finished on top the following year as well, along with three more times after that. A bronze statue depicting Hogan’s famed follow-through is outside the clubhouse. Inside is the Ben Hogan Trophy Room.
The club also honors Hogan’s legacy with The Ben Hogan Award, given to a top college golfer exhibiting excellence in academics as well as college golf. The winner is invited to compete in the following year’s tournament, and the award has kick-started the careers of some of the best young players in the game. Previous recipients include Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler.
The defending champion this year is Chris Kirk, who captured his fourth career PGA Tour victory by one stroke over Jordan Spieth, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Bohn.
Hogan’s Alley will be serving a classier meal this year. Fort Worth’s PGA tournament at Colonial Country Club, often referred to as Hogan’s Alley, has found a title sponsor: gourmet food provider Dean & DeLuca, in a six-year deal.
The PGA Tour and the specialty food company made the announcement Monday, Feb. 15. No figure was released on what the gourmet food chain paid for the sponsorship.
The “Dean & DeLuca Invitational” will see the name Colonial dropped from the storied tournament, this year scheduled for the week of May 23-29. The tournament has been held at Colonial Country Club for the past 70 years, making it the tour’s longest-tenured tournament at a single venue. The six-year sponsorship agreement runs through 2021.
“The partnership with Dean & DeLuca is very exciting, given their expansion plans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and key PGA Tour locations across the country,” said tournament chairman Bobby Patton in a news release. “For us to celebrate our 70th and, looking ahead, 75th anniversary with Dean & DeLuca means a lot to Colonial Country Club and the Fort Worth community.”
The tournament, which began in 1946 as the Colonial National Invitation Tournament, has had four other title sponsors. Southwestern Bell was the first (1989-94) and most recently, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts from 2006 until last year. Bank of America was the title sponsor the previous four years, with MasterCard, prior to that. The agreement will raise the purse for the tournament to $6.7 million.
The new sponsorship removes the name “Colonial” from the tournament, which may cause some shaky putts among golf traditionalists, but Rush Olson, principal with Rush Olson Create & Sports in Fort Worth said that shouldn’t be a problem for the storied club.
“The deal is for six years,” he said. “If it was for 20 years, you might worry, but the club has built a lot of name recognition over the years.”
For Dean & DeLuca, based in Wichita, Kansas, the title sponsorship will put a public face on a brand that, until recently, was primarily marketed in the northeast, along with some international outlets. Acquired by Thailand-based mixed-use real estate developer Pace Development Corp. in 2014 for $140 million, the company has announced expansion plans both in the U.S. and abroad.
The gourmet food chain has recently inked more marketing deals to increase brand awareness since that acquisition. In 2015, Dean & DeLuca partnered with Virgin America, to provide a curated selection of snacks – caramel popcorn, spicy Cajun snack mix, raw almonds and gummi bears – to the hip airline’s first class passengers.
Olson said the deal makes sense for Dean & DeLuca, as a brand.
“From the perspective of the sponsor, it’s a good deal,” he said. “They [Dean & DeLuca] have a big presence in Asia, where golf does very well.”
Dean & DeLuca’s average customer has a high-income, just like golf, he noted. “They’re reaching their customer base with this sponsorship,” he said.
While the company has little name awareness or any locations in North Texas at the moment, having the naming rights on a national tournament should be an effective way for Dean & DeLuca to raise awareness as it expands in this market, said Dr. Charles Howard, head of Tarleton University’s Department of Communications Studies.
“If they’re looking to expand their market and break into a new market area and they’re willing to make a big splash, it’s one of the most logical things to sponsor a golf tournament that attracts a high end group of potential customers,” he said.
While there are no announced area locations, new developments in Fort Worth – WestBend, Left Bank, Waterside and Clearfork, just to name a few – would make economic sense for the gourmet specialty food chain.
Dean & DeLuca was founded by Giorgio DeLuca and Joel B. Dean in 1977 in New York with an emphasis on specialty foods from around the world. Sales reached $51 million in 1999. While the company’s footprint has remained relatively small – at least until now – it is often credited with revolutionizing American food culture via its passion for food, innovative merchandising and aesthetic sensibility. With several shops in the trendy Greenwich Village and SoHo areas of Manhattan, Dean & DeLuca has found its way into several novels, television shows and films, particularly in the Woody Allen oeuvre.
The Dean & DeLuca Invitational is among the PGA Tour leaders in charitable giving, including a record $9.1 million awarded to charities in 2015. The tournament has generated $80 million in cash and services for more than 150 organizations over the past two decades.
“We are delighted to welcome Dean & DeLuca as the sponsor for such a time honored tradition here in Fort Worth,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “Dean & DeLuca’s commitment to invest in our community in this way means that the annual tournament at Colonial will continue proudly like it has for the last 70 years.”