A round of milestones was celebrated Feb. 22 during the Welcome Back Champions Lunch at Fort Worth’s historic Colonial Country Club.
Officials from Colonial and the PGA Tour, along with some elected officials from the city of Fort Worth, gathered for the annual luncheon, this year to honor Colonial defending champion Chris Kirk, who clinched his fourth career PGA Tour victory in 2015 by one stroke over Jordan Spieth, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Bohn.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bruce Devlin’s victory at the then-called Colonial National Invitation. The Australian golfer turned sportscaster and golf course designer, who won in 1966 also by one stroke, was on hand as he was inducted as a member of Colonial Country Club.
This year also is the 80th anniversary of Colonial Country Club and is the club’s 70th year on the PGA Tour, making it the Tour’s longest-tenured tournament at a single venue.
As previously announced, Colonial has a new title sponsor, Dean & DeLuca. The global gourmet food and beverage company signed a six-year agreement that runs through 2021.
The newly named Dean & DeLuca Invitational is scheduled for May 23-29.
“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 Bobby Patton, tournament chairman. “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.”
Joel Dean, Giorgio DeLuca and Jack Ceglic co-founded the upscale grocery store chain in 1977. In November 2014, the company was bought by PACE Development Corp., a Thai residential property development and retail company specializing in luxury lifestyle real estate and retail brands. Headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Dean & DeLuca has 12 locations in the United States and 35 international stores in Japan, the Middle East, Singapore, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.
Fort Worth has its first Dean & DeLuca location with the Colonial tournament, said Bayani Lauraya, Dean & DeLuca’s global president. Lauraya and Jay Coldren, chief development officer, spoke with Fort Worth Business before the luncheon.
Why did Dean & DeLuca decide to become a PGA title sponsor?
Lauraya: Our chairman and CEO, Mr. Sorapoj [PACE Development Corp. co-founder Techakraisri], is an avid golfer. He loves golf. He’s been playing golf since he was young. When he was young he wanted to be a professional golfer. He’s always wanted to be affiliated with golf. Being affiliated with the PGA Tour allows us to reach out to not just the United States but internationally. PGA is broadcast everywhere, in South America, Europe, South Africa, Middle East, Asia. Dean & DeLuca is not just a U.S. brand but a global brand. We have stores in the U.S. and stores internationally. So there’s an actual fit and synergy being associated with the PGA Tour.
And why Colonial Country Club?
Lauraya: Colonial Country Club is a very prestigious country club. It’s been around since 1936 and this year is celebrating its 70th year tournament. It’s very good to be associated with something that has a long, good history and heritage. Ben Hogan has won here five times. There have been a lot of players who have won here – not just recent players but many good players from the past, like Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Phil Mickelson. It’s very good to be associated with a very prestigious country club that players love to play. It has a rich heritage. We’re going into our 40th anniversary so we feel it’s good to be here. And Texas is a good state.
Do you have plans to expand in the Fort Worth-Dallas area?
Lauraya: Oh, yes, of course. Texas is a key state for us. It’s a very large population. Texas loves food and we love food. Texans love sports and we love sports. So I think there’s a good connection here. Fort Worth is a good market for us and it’s somewhere we want to establish our stores.
Do you have immediate plans to open a store in Fort Worth?
Lauraya: We do. We would like to open one early next year. We’re looking for potential sites. We have a real estate agent that’s helping us so we’re looking at both Fort Worth and Dallas to establish our stores. We will have more than one here.
More than one in the area or more than one in Fort Worth?
Lauraya: More than one in Fort Worth.
What are your other immediate plans for this year?
Lauraya: Our plan for now, since we’re new to this, is to go through the first year and make sure that we do this right. We want to learn as much as we can for this year so that we do a fabulous job.
In terms of the partnership, what we would like to do is bring some excitement to the tournament. It’s always been exciting. Looking at a long-term investment on our part, we will have a lot of focus on ensuring this becomes an exciting tournament to the fans as well as to the players. We believe we can elevate the tournament each year. We want to make it fun, whether it be bringing pro-am celebrities or bringing in some good products from our place.
Coldren: We’ll bring the fans and the players and their families a taste of the experience from our stores here and they’ll see why it’s a magical, exciting brand.
Lauraya: Colonial is all about golf and to us it’s all about food. We want to bring the two together.
Coldren: The two brands have an amazing heritage. Both have such great stories. We feel like it fits really well with the quality and the authenticity and the heritage of this tournament and this location. It felt like a really good fit for us. Good heritage, good fit, good quality.