Rick Mauch: Schwab invests in Colonial – and Fort Worth

Jordan Spieth at Colonial in 2018

Andy Gill remembers being a youngster growing up Richmond, Virginia, and his introduction to the game of golf.

“I used to caddy for my grandfather,” he said.

Gill’s grandfather belonged to the Richmond Country Club. Often he’d go to other courses for tournaments and bring Andy along.

“One of the rules was you had to bring a kid to caddy,” Gill said. “It was a great way to spend some quality time with my grandfather.”

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Though Gill only hits the links once or twice a year these days, he still loves the game. And he’s as excited as he can ever remember being now that the company of which he is the chief marketing officer has taken over the title sponsorship of Fort Worth’s premier professional golf tournament at Colonial Country Club.

The Charles Schwab Challenge makes its debut May 20-26. Though the company has long been involved with the PGA Tour, this is the first time it will have its name as a title sponsor.

While this is the first of a four-year relationship, much like a comfortable courtship, there’s something that seems to click. Not only does it look like the Schwab folks came to the rescue of one of the most prestigious tournaments in professional golf, the feeling of happiness seems to be reciprocated on both sides.

“The longevity, and it’s a challenging course where shot-making is a premium,” Gill said, explaining why he and his partners agree the tournament at Colonial is a perfect fit for his company. “We’re growing in this area, and we want to be engaged in the community. This is a fantastic opportunity for everyone. You’ve got the combination of a tournament that challenges the greatest golfers with us challenging the status quo as we do with investors.

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“The parallels of people challenging themselves in golf and our investors with their finances are many. Golfers start each hole with what they want to accomplish in mind, as do our investors. And there’s a lot of passion around that.”

Hence, the name of the tournament. Schwab, just like the pro golfers who will take on the Colonial course in a few weeks, loves a challenge.

And, from personal experience, having played in Colonial’s recent media tournament, trust me when I say it is as challenging as it has ever been. True, some of that could be that while Tiger Woods is turning in a scorecard with a 66 on it after 18 holes, that’s my score after only a dozen holes, but it is one of the more challenging courses around, nonetheless.

Speaking of Tiger, Gill said that while he was not on

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Schwab’s radar to try to bring back this year, who knows in the future. Though Colonial is relatively short compared with many other courses, players often have trouble keeping the ball out of the many trees and resort to irons instead of woods, and some speculate this is a reason Tiger has skipped the tourney for many years.

“We have a very strong field,” Gill said. “We have some of the world’s top players coming.”

While it would be great to see Tiger once again walking the fairways at Colonial, you can’t be disappointed with the likes of Brooks Koepka, who won two majors in 2018, and local favorite and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.

The tournament is no longer the second leg of the North Texas swing, which featured the Byron Nelson in Dallas one weekend and the Colonial in Fort Worth the next. This year it will be separated by the PGA, one of the four majors previously played in August but now moved up to May. Gill thinks this will work to their advantage, along with the tourney being held on Memorial Day weekend.

“We feel that momentum will carry over. We think the timing around Memorial Day will be good for us,” he said.

Gill said Colonial’s charitable history was also a reason the company jumped onboard when Dean & DeLuca couldn’t complete the final four years of their six-year sponsorship commitment. Schwab is likewise known for its work in communities, he said, even giving employees paid time off for community service.

And the financial services and brokerage firm is becoming a bigger part of the Fort Worth community, opening a state-of-the-art employment center facility in Westlake this year for employees already working in the D-FW area, while allowing for significant growth and expansion.

“The Metroplex has a highlight skilled workforce, and this was the obvious place to put down roots and serve our clients,” Gill said. “Westlake, when complete, will be our largest Texas campus.”

The new campus, which is set on Turner Lake, is 20 minutes from the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, in a highly visible location off State Highways 170 and 114. Phase I will be 500,000 square feet of office space on a 70-acre site. When both phases are completed, Charles Schwab will have 1.1 million square feet, four office buildings, two parking garages and an auditorium.

Being one of only a few invitationals in the PGA, the Colonial was already set apart. And now, with the cool new prize it is offering, who wouldn’t want to play there? Well, Tiger, I suppose, but if I had the skills I’d make room on my schedule, whatever it took, to try to win that fully renovated and customized 1973 Dodge Challenger. It’s a beauty, and you’ve got to love the play on history that went into it: Colonial is in its 73rd year and Schwab starting operations in 1973.

“That symmetry was too good to pass up,” Gill said.

And that’s not all Schwab is doing to jazz up the tourney. There will be a cool fan zone, and Throwback Thursday sounds awesome as fans — and even players — are encouraged to wear clothing from 1973. Fans dressed as such will get a 73% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks.

“It’s a way to celebrate the whole legacy of the tournament,” Gill said. “The 1973 vehicle is pretty popular.”

I have always looked forward to the tournament at Colonial, and this year even more than ever. While kudos must be given to the folks at Colonial for keeping the tourney afloat last year without a sponsor, it was admittedly a little scary for a while before Schwab came along.

And while Schwab’s initial agreement with Colonial is through 2022, something tells me this could be the long-term relationship local golf fans have been waiting on, sort of like the way those early days of golf are still with Gill today.