Given the life of PGA events the odds were against Reno keeping the event for 13 years and yet the Reno-Tahoe Open lives on. That is a testament to hard work of many who wanted to see the annual late-summer tournament continue.
While I remember sitting with Reno TV broadcasters during that inaugural promotional event, I also recollect more than a few other press conferences where RTO officials clamored on about doomsday scenarios for the event if it did not find a title sponsor. Save for a year or two here and there, the RTO has had to stand on its own, without much corporate money. More impressively, it’s always done it with the tour’s best players competing in a World Golf Championship Event somewhere else.
Those two facts right there, the lack of a title sponsor and always competing for players and media coverage against a bigger event, are what makes the RTO’s sustained life impressive to me.
For years, local sports fans have said Reno-Sparks does not have professional sports. We do have AAA baseball now with the Reno Aces, and they are a nice addition to the local entertainment scene. However, for 13 years we’ve had a professional sporting event in the form of the Reno-Tahoe Open.
In 2010, not only did the RTO share its with a WGC event, but it also fell concurrently on the same dates as the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. That certainly could not have helped attendance, especially since the celebrity event drew record numbers.
Local golf fans, and for that matter, just fans of good local entertainment, would love to see the RTO get a title sponsor and get an unencumbered date so it could draw the tour’s top players. But that’s the old chicken or egg questions, which one comes first.
That would be great for the Reno-Tahoe Open and its hard-working officials. It would also be good for the local economy as the event would surely draw more fans. But despite not having those two things, there is much to appreciate about the RTO.
The first thing is it offers local fans a chance to see really good golf. The elevation at Montreux is a big factor but driving distance at the RTO has been first or second every year but once since 2002. In addition, it takes a talented skill set to thrive at Montreux. The south Reno course ranked highest in scoring average (73.03) of any non-major par 72 course on tour last year.
Thus, anyone who wants to win the RTO this week will likely have to hit bombs off the tee and put irons tight to pins. That’s fun golf to watch.
I hope the golf provides stellar play and intense drama this coming weekend. I hope the fans turn out in higher numbers than they have. I want to see the Reno-Tahoe Open prosper, because that’s good for local economy and the local people.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at: