PGA Tour leaving Trump's Doral course for Mexico City

The annual PGA golf tournament at Trump's Doral course is relocating to Mexico City

After more than 50 years, the PGA Tour is leaving Doral and moving that tournament to Mexico.

The PGA Tour insists the move announced Wednesday was made for financial reasons, not because of the comments or politics of course owner Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

Trump himself broke news of the move to Mexico on the TV show “Hannity” Tuesday night, adding: “I hope they have kidnapping insurance.”

Last summer, Trump made headlines for his derogatory comments about Mexicans, and then later said the golf industry supported his views. The PGA Tour, which says it is politically neutral, then felt compelled to release a statement.

And now, Mexico City will get to see up close the Tour’s “strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” as the Tour’s release in July said.

The event at Trump National Doral has had many names, most recently World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, and over the years the biggest stars in pro golf have competed on a national stage at the famed Blue Monster course.

The contract with Cadillac for the event’s sponsorship expired after this year’s tournament, and the PGA Tour says a lack of sponsorship forced the move.

“The decision made here was based on the reality that we were not able to secure sponsorship for next year's WGC at Doral ...” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem told reporters in Dublin, Ohio, Wednesday, where the Tour is playing this week. “At the same time, we had an opportunity to build what we think is going to be a spectacular event in an area that is strategically important to the growth of the sport, and the activity of the PGA Tour that has been focused in South America and Central America for the last good number of years.”

The PGA Tour’s statement earlier in the day made a point of thanking Trump, and the Tour kept the door open for a possible Miami tournament at a later date.

“We greatly appreciate everything that Cadillac, Trump National Doral and Donald Trump have done for the tournament,” Finchem said in the release. “Cadillac has been a tremendous sponsor and Donald has been a most gracious host since taking over the property in 2013... The PGA Tour has had a wonderful history in greater Miami and at Trump National Doral and we remain interested in returning when the time is right.”

The agreement with the WGC-Mexico Championship is a seven-year deal. Doral had a contract with the PGA though 2023, but that was contingent upon sponsorship.

Trump, who owns 17 golf properties around the world, bought the 800-acre Miami-Dade property in 2012, changed the name to Trump National Doral and invested $250 million in upgrades to the resort’s golf courses, hotel and villas.

On “Hannity,” Trump said: “I just heard that the PGA Tour is taking their tournament out of Miami and moving it to Mexico, as an example. It’s at Doral, they use one of my places. They’re moving their tournament, it’s the Cadillac World Golf Championship, and Cadillac’s been a great sponsor … but they’re moving it to Mexico City. I’m saying, ‘What’s going on here?’ It is so sad when you look at what’s going on with our country.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the Miami Herald that the PGA Tour made a last-minute request for $6 million from the local government to keep the event in Doral.

“It's a question of money,” Gimenez told the Herald, adding that he heard Cadillac was willing to sponsor the event again. “Cadillac was going to spend a certain amount. The people in Mexico are going to spend a certain amount. The gap, I guess, is $6 million.”

Gimenez told the Herald he declined to pursue the money. He also said the PGA Tour talked to him last summer about possibly moving the event to Key Biscayne.

The Doral PGA event was first played in 1962, and in 1972, the PGA Tour added a stop in Broward County, the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic. That later became the Honda Classic.

Now, the Doral event is gone, and in 2003, the Honda Classic moved to Palm Beach County. So the farthest south the PGA Tour will go in Florida is Palm Beach Gardens.

The new Mexico City event will be March 2-5. That is the week after the Honda Classic, which is Feb. 23-26 on the Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa.

“Obviously, the important question is how is it going to affect the Honda?” said Honda Classic Executive Director Ken Kennerly, whose tournament has set records for attendance and donations to charity since moving to PGA National in 2007. “I honestly don’t think that much. Players love coming here, they love the golf course. Obviously we’ve got a cadre of players who live here.”

“The event’s going to continue on and continue to prosper.”

He added that he’s been told that the Mexico Championship will provide a first-class charter flight from Palm Beach International Airport to Mexico City.

Another positive:

“We are now the only tournament in South Florida on the PGA Tour,” Kennerly said. “That’s going to open up opportunities from a sales and hospitality standpoint from companies that sponsored Doral, so we will capitalize on that.”

Some local charities might not be as happy about losing the Doral tournament,

According to the World Golf Championships website, in 2015 the Cadillac Championship raised more than $970,000 for South Florida charities.

The primary beneficiaries were United Way of Miami-Dade, The First Tee Broward and First Tee Miami-Dade.

“We all felt it was a great possibility that the WGC-Cadillac Championship would not be returning to Doral due to the inability of the tour to find a new sponsor,” said Jack Bloomfield, Director of Operations for the Broward chapter, which introduces kids to golf and core values such as honesty, integrity and responsibility, and also works with military veterans.

“The charitable funds that were donated from the WGC-Cadillac tournament to The First Tee Broward will be extremely hard to replace as they were our founding partner back in 2014 as well as the largest financial contributor to our chapter [approximately 20 percent of its annual budget]. We will just have to move forward and try to connect with new corporate partners here in Broward that see the good that we are doing for thousands of kids in our community.”

swaters@tribpub.com or Twitter @WatersOutdoors

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