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Weeks: CN dropping golf sponsorship but staying involved

Bob Weeks
2/6/2013 10:11:22 AM
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Sponsors come and sponsors go.

That's just a fact of life. Times change, people move and a company decides that a sponsorship just doesn't fit any more.

That's pretty much the case with CN's decision to end its support of the Canadian Women's Open after this year's event in Edmonton. It really wasn't a shock that the rail company stepped aside; its departure was more or less expected once Hunter Harrison left the top spot at the company in 2009. It was Harrison who more or less arbitrarily decided that CN would become sponsor of the golf tournament after a chance golf game with a senior Golf Canada official. That was at a time when BMO had stepped aside and the tournament was close to folding.

And it was Harrison who almost arbitrarily decided to raise the purse several times. (When he announced a purse increase one year at the event's infamous Saturday night bash, a CN staffer who was running the tournament happened to be standing beside me. That person looked at me, shocked, and said: "Did he just say he was increasing the purse?") Harrison was always front and centre at the golf tournament, handing out Rolex watches to Annika Sorenstam and Dawn Coe-Jones on their retirements. It was his baby, to be sure although CN was a tremendous sponsor, adding the CN Miracle Match fundraising program that should top $10 million at the end of this year's event in Edmonton.

What shouldn't be overlooked in all this is CN's commitment to the Future Links program, which is significant. The fact it would stick around for that shows it's at least somewhat interested in staying with golf.

As for the future of the Canadian Women's Open, I'd be surprised if another sponsor isn't found. The price tag isn't overwhelming - about $2.75 to $3 million - and the event has some cache as one of the top stops on the LPGA Tour. You don't have to worry about which players are going to show up as you do on the men's tour as almost every big name in women's golf plays all the events.

As a client hosting opportunity, it's an excellent tool. Now it's just finding a company that shares that opinion.

Scott Simmons, Golf Canada's head honcho, hopes to have a sponsor in place by the time the event tees off in Edmonton at Royal Mayfair this August. What he needs is another Hunter Harrison who will buy in.




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