PALM HARBOR — Tampa Bay’s annual PGA Tour event is getting a fresh coat of paint.
When Minnesota-based paint company Valspar signed a four-year deal in September to be the title sponsor for the annual PGA Tour event on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Resort and Spa, it was a welcomed move after the 2013 tournament lacked a title sponsor for the third time in its 14-year history.
“It was important to us to help keep the PGA here in the Tampa Bay area,” Valspar CEO Gary Hendrickson said Monday at the tournament luncheon held at the resort’s Packard Steakhouse. “It’s an important part of the community that also gives back and we’re thankful to be a part of that for four years now.”
Instrumental in making sure the newly named Valspar Championship presented by BB&T stayed in Tampa Bay was Gary Koch, the NBC golf analyst and Tampa resident, who also brought World Golf Hall of Famer Nick Price on board. Both will play ambassador-like roles to the tournament’s week-long events and pageantry at Innisbrook and Palm Harbor community.
“When I was in Hawaii to start the (PGA Tour) season, I had a lot of golfers come up to me and say they were very grateful to see Copperhead get a sponsor because many golfers love coming here and love playing this course,” Koch said. “At least 20 players told me it’s one of their favorite stops, so its great to have a sponsor again.”
An added benefit of having a returned sponsorship is the tournament’s purse has risen $200,000 to $5.7 million, which means the winner will take home $1.026 million. It’s the first time in tourney history the champion will win more than $1 million.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the PGA Tour in the Tampa Bay area. The JCPenney Classic, a coed mixed team tournament, moved to Copperhead and was played until 1999. In 2000, it became a full PGA Tour event and has had six different names prior to this most recent sponsor.
“Just as Valspar has pledged to make this tournament great, we here at Innisbrook plan to dedicate all our energy and resources to continue to make this one of the best tournaments on tour,” said Sheila Johnson, the CEO and founder of Salamander Hospitality, which owns Innisbrook Resort.
The Valspar Championship will be played March 13-16 and feature a field with defending champion Kevin Streelman, former winners such as Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and K.J. Choi, and fan favorites such as Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and John Daly.