Constellation Furyk and Friends Breaks the Mold of Tournaments

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 27: Captain Jim Furyk of the United States and wife Tabitha Furyk depart the opening ceremony for the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 27, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 27: Captain Jim Furyk of the United States and wife Tabitha Furyk depart the opening ceremony for the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 27, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) /

There’s a good chance that Jim and Tabitha Furyk’s Champions tour event, Constellation Furyk and Friends, presented by Circle K, will pave a new road for the Champions Tour in many ways, the most visible of which is having a player’s name as part of the tournament name.

On the PGA Tour, active players cannot have a tournament named after them. After they retire, it’s another matter, as in the GTE Byron Nelson. That event has been held for decades, many while Nelson was still alive, but it was after his retirement from professional play.  The naming rule even counted for silly season events co-sponsored by the Tour, causing Greg Norman to change the name of his tournament, which is now the QBE ShootOut.

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But now, with Constellation Furyk and Friends, a player’s name is part of the tournament name. And it’s OK because the rules for the PGA Tour Champions events are different.

According to Miller Brady, President of PGA Tour Champions Tour, part of the reason is that things are just done differently on the Champions circuit.

“We embrace our players to the fullest,” he said.  “We feel that having our players desire to support the tour is important.”

It’s important enough that other players are now becoming interested in what the Furyks have done. Several, according to Brady, are interested in having a similar model.

Even though a player may be willing to lend his name, most often, it depends on what the title sponsor wants.  Do they want a player name with the sponsor name or don’t they?  In the case of Constellation and the Furyks, they had a previous, long-standing relationship with the company.  It was a perfect match.

“We had our event that we called Furyk & Friends for 10 years, and we had a nice little niche, and we were raising about half a million dollars each year for charity,” Jim Furyk explained to media prior to the Constellation event.  “We were raising some good money, but we also didn’t have a formula for growth.”

They wanted to increase what they could do for charity, because, honestly, the Furyks have enough money. They aren’t in it to make money for themselves. They want to do something to make a difference for the charities they support and the community where they live.

After talking to the PGA Tour and Constellation and adding Circle K, the presenting sponsor, the Furyks talked to golfer friends of theirs who were already involved with tournaments.

“I talked to Steve (Stricker) and Davis (Love III),” Jim explained. “I think Tabitha even talked to Nicki (Stricker) and Robin (Love).”

They found out how their charitable foundations interfaced with the tournament and how all the moving parts worked.

As Furyk said, “We talked more about the tournament itself, not ever really playing in it, if that makes sense.”

Furyk is quick to say he believes that having a player host a Champions event is a plus for the tournament.  Of course, with golfers like Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Davis Love III, who are all quality people, it is easier to get cooperation from sponsors and players.  They already have 20 or 30 years of experience by the time they age up to the Champions Tour.  They know what players want.

As Brady noted, the most important factors in making a tournament work are the individuals involved. With people like the Furyks, the Loves and the Strickers, everybody knows what they are getting, and it’s all good.

Now that Furyk & Friends is actually here, Jim has turned his thoughts to competing. Everything is already organized and underway.

When asked about his chances of winning, he said, “I get a sense that it’s going to be pretty difficult. I don’t think many player hosts have won their event.”

Jack Nicklaus did at the Memorial.  Norman won with Steve Elkington at the ShootOut in 1998. Arnold Palmer won at what is now the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 1971.  But in those days it was the Florida Citrus Open. Palmer bought the Bay Hill golf course in 1974. So technically he won it before he was involved with the tournament.

Now the Furyks know what other tournament hosts have felt before their events. Monday of this week, Furyk said he had the feeling of a major championship.  With the field they have, no wonder.

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“I was just so excited to get things going, but also felt nervous, right?” he said to media about his and Tabitha’s event. “This has been over three years in the making, so it felt like this day or this week would never get here, and then the last few months have kind of flown by.”

It will be interesting to see how PGA Champions Tour events unfold in the years ahead and how many players step up to host tournaments.  The guidebook is being played out this week for those who want to follow it.  However, one thing that will be hard for any other tournament to duplicate is the Circle K sponsored water taxi that takes fans from downtown Jacksonville, Florida, to the dock at Timuquana Country Club!