Omaha will be back in professional golf and on the Korn Ferry Tour for at least the next five years. The Pinnacle Bank Championship will be held in 2017 at Indian Creek. Dates will be July 17 to 23. The purse will be $600,000.
“We knew that Omaha was a great market for us and we were determined to come back and build the tournament the right way,” Korn Ferry Tour President Bill Calfee said Monday.
Calfee was at Indian Creek at a press conference to announce details of the revived Omaha tournament.
Champions Run hosted Omaha’s tour stop, last known as the Cox Classic, from 1996 to 2013.
“I haven’t thought about it every day the last three years about getting this tournament back to Omaha, but it seems like it to me,” Calfee said.
Pinnacle Bank has a five-year contract with the tour. Indian Creek has a three-year deal, with an option to step away after one year. Indian Creek co-owner Bill Gottsch, who previously said the event didn’t fit the daily-fee course’s business model, said Indian Creek’s regular players encouraged him to take the tournament, and he’ll listen to them after it next year if they aren’t happy.
“It’s really hard to get customers to a business, as you all know, and really hard to keep them,” Gottsch said. “So until we could negotiate some things with the tour that Bill was good about offering, I didn’t want to have it because we’re giving up our golf course for nine days.”
Indian Creek will get a private tent for its regulars, Gottsch said, and the winner of the annual Indian Creek Invitational will receive an exemption into the Pinnacle Bank Championship. The bank, which owns the naming rights to Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena, was looking for similar exposure in the Omaha area, bank President Marc Hock said. He said the 2017 tournament will not be telecast. Tournaments have to pay to be on the Golf Channel. Those fees are thought to be in the range of $350,000. Sid Dinsdale, Pinnacle Bank’s chairman, said his family has a long history with the Gottsches in the cattle business.
“Bill said, ‘Who would have ever thought that two or three generations ago, our families would be sponsoring a golf tournament?’” Dinsdale said. “I know what my grandfather would have thought.”
Chimed in Gottsch: “They’re rolling over in the grave.”
Support Nebraska, a new charitable foundation, will manage and operate the tournament. It’s hired MTT Management of Omaha, owned by Mike West. The CEO of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation was the tournament director of the Omaha Classic from 1997 to 2002.
“A course and a title sponsor are the two most important things,” West said. “So far, from just the few people we’ve talked to, former sponsors and volunteers, they are thrilled and so grateful for Indian Creek and Pinnacle Bank to make this happen.
“I commend Bill (Gottsch) and Marc and Sid for filling a void that I think the golf fans and fans in general felt was there. We spent 18 years enjoying some of the best players in the world coming to Omaha, Nebraska, and they are bringing this back to the community.”
The PGA Tour long has considered Omaha to be valuable to its Korn Ferry Tour, which is for players trying to make the PGA Tour or hoping to return there after losing their eligibility. After the 2013 Cox Classic, the PGA Tour didn’t renew its contract with the Omaha Community Service Foundation. Also expiring that year were the contracts with the country club and with the Cox Classic’s two largest sponsors, Cox Communications and Lexus of Omaha. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem came to Omaha in October 2013, and Calfee made several visits trying to keep the tournament going.
Omaha joined the then-Nike Tour in 1996 after a six-month whirlwind startup with the Blackstone Group, a software consulting business, as its primary sponsor. Omaha quickly became one of the tour’s most successful cities for attendance and financial support. Most years, the Cox Classic was played in early August and televised on the Golf Channel. The 2013 tournament offered an $800,000 purse, with playoff winner Bronson La’Cassie collecting $144,000. Indian Creek, at 204th Street and West Maple Road, opened its first 18 holes in 1992 and another nine four years later. Owned by Gottsch and his brother Brett, the course renovated greens and bunkers on all three nines earlier this decade. West said he will hire a tournament director and two more staff members. His first hire is Gary Java, who has been marketing director at Horsemen’s Park, as director of sales.
“My goal is to help facilitate the overall vision and let the day-to-day operations be handled by a top-notch staff,” West said.
Unlike the early years of the Korn Ferry Tour in Omaha, people know about the event, he said.
“To create the financial support to run an event of this size is a lot easier when you don’t have to explain what the Korn Ferry Tour is,” West said. “We will work with the volunteer director of the past and communicate through her to the volunteers, so we have some infrastructure in place already.
“We’ll create a great relationship as before with the Nebraska Section PGA and make sure all the courses around the state have the opportunity to allow their customers and members to volunteer. We’re really hoping to use the knowledge and relations that exist to make sure that doing it the first time the second time is easier than doing it the first time the first time.”