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Last Chrysler Classic of Greensboro promises to be special

by Ogi Overman

If the old saying that goes, “The first time only happens once” has a corollary, it would be: “So does the last.” And by their singular nature, both the first and last occurrence – of anything – are deemed special. That being the case, both the 2006 and 2007 PGA Tour events in Greensboro fall into that category of being special. Yet, in what seems an obvious logical fallacy, the last event will precede the first.

By way of explanation, the 2006 event will be the last Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. After 11 years as the title sponsor, DiamlerChrysler announced shortly after last year’s tourney that this would be their last. Citing a shift in corporate marketing strategy – and not the event itself – as the reason, the breakup has been most cordial.

This year will also mark the last year the tourney will be held in October, as next year everything changes. And by that, we mean everything.

For starters, the PGA has followed the lead of NASCAR by instituting a points system. The inaugural FedEx Cup will begin next year and Greensboro will be a big factor in the season-long race. The powers that be in the PGA smiled upon the Gate City by awarding them the last date before the playoffs, which virtually guarantees a star-studded field, as everyone will be scrambling either to secure a spot in the playoffs or improve their position.

“It worked out really well for us,” remarked Tournament Director Mark Brazil soon after the deal was struck. “We are delighted, to say the least.”

Although the exact date has yet to be finalized, the mere fact that it will be in the summer would be enough to delight local officials. Over the storied history of the 66-year-old event, its late-April or early-May date and the fact that it was played the week before the Masters kept many of the marquee names away. In fact, the move to the fall three years ago was a last-ditch effort to save the tournament. Now those worries should be a thing of the past.

Likewise, even though a new title sponsor has yet to be named, Brazil need not worry about that, either. The task of finding a new sponsor has been assigned to Mark Steinburg and IMG, the Cleveland-based sports management company for which he works. Steinburg, who is Tiger Woods’ agent, was originally hired to help secure a FedEx Cup date for the CCG.

So, with much change on the horizon, the 2006 CCG becomes one of transition. While obviously looking forward to the new date and new sponsor, the tourney is also taking a fond look back. And, given that its 1938 founding makes it one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour, there is much to reminisce about.

Sam Snead’s eight victories here, the most by any golfer at a single event, is the stuff of legend. His final victory here, in 1965, made him the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event. No wonder the CCG victor is now and forever awarded the Sam Snead Cup.

In its first four years, the tournament was split between Starmount and Sedgefield country clubs, two rounds at each course, before moving solely to Sedgefield in 1942. The tournament went on hiatus during World War II, but resumed in 1945 and alternated between the two courses until 1961, when it moved to Sedgefield. It remained there through 1976 before moving to Forest Oaks Country Club, where it has been played continually since.

While old-timers are still inclined to refer to the tourney as the GGO (Greater Greensboro Open), it has not had that appellation since 1987, when it picked up its first title sponsor and became the Kmart GGO. The discount-store giant remained on board through 1995, when Chrysler assumed sponsorship, first as the GGCC (Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic) and since 2003 as the CCG (Chrysler Classic of Greensboro).

Last Tuesday Brazil announced that another nod to the past would be reinstituted this year – the grandstands behind the 17th green. They were removed after the 1987 tourney, when a CBS announcer commented that the hole looked more like a NASCAR race than a golf tournament. Inasmuch as the two bleachers would have shouting matches of “Less filling” and “Tastes great,” that fans encircling the par-3 hole would often do “the wave” during matches, and that once a rubber chicken came flying out of the crowd onto the green, the comment was no doubt justified.

Again, Brazil need not worry about a return to the “Pop-top Open,” as it was unofficially referred to.

“We want to bring back a little bit of the fun that hole used to have,” he told News & Record reporter Robert Bell. “We just need to make sure the fun doesn’t get out of hand.” A mere one beer stand and several dozen marshals should take care of that.

The fun will officially get under way Thursday, Oct. 2. Defending champ KJ Choi will be in the field, as will no fewer than eight former champions and seven winners on this year’s tour. Tickets may be obtained by calling 336.379.1570 or at any area Harris Teeter. For further info go online to chryslerclassic.com.

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