With the future of the Houston Open Golf Tournament in jeopardy, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is making a strong effort to help keep the event on the PGA Tour schedule.
Crane is working to land a title sponsor for the event, critical to its future.
The Houston Golf Association, which began hosting the Houston Open in 1946, has been without a title sponsor since Shell did not extend its contract with the HGA following the 2017 tournament.
The HGA has been trying to land a title sponsor for the event since Shell reached its decision.
Crane has had conversations with the PGA Tour about his efforts.
“I’ve talked to the commissioner (Jay Monahan), and he says if you can present me something I’ll take a look at it,” Crane said. “They’re not pushing back. They’ve basically said they’d like to keep it here if they can get something done. They don’t have anything done. So I’m working on it.
“I personally won’t make any money. The Astros won’t make any money. I’m just doing it because I think it’s great for golf and it’s great for the city. I’m just trying to help. Right now my focus is trying to help find a sponsor.
“My goal is to save the tournament, get the sponsors, keep it in town and get it to be a thriving event that could raise a lot of money for charity.”
The clock is ticking on Crane and the HGA landing a title sponsor.
Crane said the PGA Tour needs to know something within the next couple of months.
“Right now the tournament is on a fuse,” Crane said. “I think (the deadline) is June or July. July I would say the latest something has to be done. The PGA has to move on. They have to plan their next year’s season. Can’t wait until the last minute, and that’s their requirement. It’s not necessarily mine.
“I think they’d like to see it done no later than June, but I think if you’ve got something working, they’ll work with you.
“I’m hoping to put the whole thing together and deliver the package to the PGA, and then make an announcement saying ‘hey we’re going to keep it in Houston. Here’s how we’re going to do it.’”
As Sports Radio 610 first reported, the Houston Open lost its host golf course when the owners of The Golf Club of Houston in Humble recently notified the HGA that it would no longer have the PGA event on its schedule.
Crane said he can find an interim location for the golf tournament for 2019, with Memorial Park being the ideal long-term solution.
“If you eventually get the tournament downtown at Memorial (Park), get that rebuilt. You can raise the money to do that,” Crane said. “I think it would be a premier event.”
Crane has brought incredible success to the defending World Champion Houston Astros franchise.
He believes he can bring similar success to the Houston Open Golf Tournament.
“With my team and the Astros Foundation getting behind this and our credibility, I think we can partner with somebody to get it done,” Crane said. “And again, I’m not running this to make a nickel. This would all go back into charity and go back into the city.
“If we can line up the sponsors, I’d want to organize how it would be managed, and who would be on that team I don’t know yet.
“I don’t want to exclude the Houston Golf Association, because they’ve done this for a long time, but I’m not going to get my nose in it unless I call the shots.”
Meanwhile the Houston Golf Association, which has raised more than $70 million for local charities, can retain control of the Houston Open if it finds the title sponsor.
The HGA also runs the largest First Tee chapter in the nation.
First Tee is a youth development program focused on character education through golf.
Crane is a trustee of the First Tee Foundation and said he has donated a great deal of money to the program.
“The Houston Golf Association welcomes any assistance we can get from the community to help us continue the good work we’re doing through golf in Houston,” said Steve Timms, HGA president and CEO.