Sponsorship finally reached one of the oldest sports
organizations in the country, with the U.S. Golf Association
announcing a multiyear deal Monday that will make American Express
its first corporate partner.
"This is new ground for us," USGA executive director David Fay
said. "We hope this is the beginning of a long relationship with
Amex. For some of those elements of the USGA that don't get much
publicity, we hope this relationship helps us. And we'll do our
part to provide Amex with some benefits for its members."
One of those benefits will be tickets to the U.S. Open. American
Express plans to run advertisements this week showing Tiger Woods
and the U.S. Open trophy, offering card members who belong to its
rewards program a chance to purchase Trophy Club tickets to the
2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, which already is sold out.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
American Express had been the title sponsor of a World Golf
Championship the past eight years, a relationship that ended two
months ago in London when Woods won the event for the fifth time.
And while Woods has not signed an extension of his deal with
American Express, the world's No. 1 player made a series of phone
calls last week to talk about the USGA's first corporate partner in
its 112-year history.
"It's a tremendous opportunity," Woods said. "This is two
enormous brands coming together to help golf."
That doesn't mean it will be the "American Express U.S. Open,"
or that the company will take on a stronger presence across
Oakmont, Torrey Pines, Bethpage or any of the other U.S. Open
Officials said U.S. Open fans likely won't notice the
partnership while watching the tournament.
"We're not going to be slapping logos all over the place,"
said Jud Linville, president of the U.S. Consumer Card Services
Group at Amex. "We're trying to broaden the appeal of the game."
The USGA was founded in 1894 and is the governing body of golf
in the United States and Mexico. Along with running 13
championships each year, it writes and interprets the Rules of Golf
and funds such things as turf grass research and golf course
maintenance. It recently hired Barry Hyde as its chief marketing
officer to arrange corporate partners, much like Royal Bank of
Scotland's longtime sponsorship of the British Open.
"We believe this partnership will allow us to reach more
golfers and make them more aware of our many programs that benefit
their golf game," USGA president Walter Driver said.
The U.S. Open has been a sellout every year since 1988. It will
be played June 14-17 at Oakmont outside Pittsburgh, where Jack
Nicklaus won his first U.S. Open in 1962 in a playoff over Arnold
Palmer, and where Johnny Miller won in 1973 with a 63 in the final
Fay did not say how many Trophy Club tickets would be available
to American Express.
Linville said the company also would make tickets and packages
available to its card members for other USGA events, such as the
U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles and the U.S. Amateur, to be
played next year at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.