SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Upon the announcement earlier this month that Minnehaha Country Club had decided to reject an extension of the Sanford International PGA Tour Champions tournament, tournament director Josh Brewster and Sanford executive vice president Micah Aberson both intimated that without the host site’s involvement, the event would likely end after the expiration of the original five-year agreement that runs through 2022.
Now Sanford is singing a different tune. Aberson said Sanford officials fielded dozens of phone calls and inquiries since the announcement from interested cities and golf courses, and plans are moving forward to find a new home for Sioux Falls’ biggest golf event.
“I would say we’re a long ways away from throwing in the towel,” Aberson said. “It’s just a matter of what city, what golf course and what state that it takes place.”
And a new favorite has already emerged: Fargo.
Sanford has established a major presence with North Dakota/s largest city, both in health care facilities and Sanford’s enthusiasm for supporting and sponsoring local sports. Making the move of just over 200 miles would make for a relatively smooth transition for a tournament that’s been a huge hit in its three years in Sioux Falls, raising hundred of thousands of dollars for charity and being one of the first major American sporting events to allow fans this past summer.
“It’s a huge market for Sanford Health,” Aberson said. “Our largest medical center is in Fargo. We have more employees that are residents of North Dakota than South Dakota, and the business community has already begun to reach out. It’s a generous, supportive and welcoming business community, and we’re gonna go up there and have a discussion, see where it goes and kick the tires.”
The host golf course hasn’t been discussed yet, though more than one could be an option. Right now, establishing that Fargo has the appetite to financially support the event is the main priority. In addition to Sanford’s contribution to making the tournament happen, sponsorships contribute up to $3 million to the Sanford International, and one possible advantage to Fargo would be retaining some of the current sponsors in addition to securing new ones in North Dakota, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.
Aberson said a regional home for the tournament is preferable, but not necessarily a requirement. Sanford is about to merge with Intermountain Health Care in Utah, and PGA events have been held in that state.
While Sanford officials have not closed the door on staying in Sioux Falls with two years still left on the original agreement, Aberson downplayed the idea that other sites are being floated as a bargaining chip. There’s been little discussion with Minnehaha, he said.
Minnehaha Country Club COO Bret Coad said in a statement that having South Dakota’s relatively short golf season interrupted by the tournament left members divided on the proposed extension, and that, for now, MCC remains fully committed to hosting the final two years of the tournament.
“We’re legitimately trying to pursue options and see what might be available to us,” Aberson said. “We’ve become really passionate about this tournament and what it brings to the community. I don’t know what (Minnehaha’s) appetite is for (revisiting negotiations) and as we continue to go down this path I don’t know what ours will be, but I wouldn’t consider that door closed.”