Sunday, February 21, 2016

What's in a Name?

So Bubba Watson won the Glenn Campbell Los Angeles Open, uh, er, I mean the Northern Trust Open today. Way to go Bubba!

The PGA Tour is finishing a swing that headed down, up and then back down the California coast this last month (with a detour to Arizona), finishing at Riviera Country Club in LaLa land for the Northern Trust Open. The tournament's title and sponsorship are contracted and paid for by the eponymous international financial services company. Northern Trust provides private banking, investment banking and wealth management services. Its customers don't get a free toaster with a new checking account, but many do get access to a catered suite with bar overlooking the eighteenth green.

Andy Williams San Diego Open logo hat.
Times change. So do names. A few weeks back, when I tuned into the Farmers Insurance Open broadcast on the Golf Channel, I thought oh yeah, the Andy Williams San Diego Open. 

Last week the PGA tour's traveling road show moved up the the coast to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, which once was the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur.  

The dropped tournament names harken back to a time when most early season PGA Tour events generated exposure and borrowed cachet by trading on the name, likeness, and talent of well known celebrities. 

Andy Williams was best known for his signature song, Moon River.

Williams jumped on to the sponsorship carousel when Tour events seeking promotional appeal and new revenue streams began taking on names that identified more than place.
The San Diego Open was founded in 1952, but hop-scotched around southern California for its first 16 years, never really finding a home. Williams came aboard in 1968 -- the same year that the tournament moved to Torrey Pines, and the combination of celebrity clout and first-class venue proved to be a real game-changer. The event has remained at Torrey ever since, and become one of the most successful on the PGA Tour – and no doubt that success helped to pave the way for Torrey to be awarded the 2008 U.S. Open, won by Tiger Woods in his memorable 18-hole playoff over Rocco Mediate.

Often there was a pro-am component to the celebrity named tour events. Celebrity pals, as well as accomplished athletes and notable politicians participated. Their star power drew attention and status, drove attendance, and attracted advertising and sponsorship dollars. 

1947 Bing Crosby National Pro Amateur program.
The granddaddy of them all was the Bing Crosby Pro-Amateur held in January/February on three courses on the Monterey Peninsula (in the oft-quoted words of Robert Louis Stevenson,  "the most felicitous meeting of land and sea in existence.").  
Crosby always had the Hollywood A-list stars like Jack Lemon, Dean Martin, Clint EastwoodPaul NewmanJack Nicholson, and recent stars like Bill MurrayGlenn FreyKevin Costner, Steve YoungGeorge LopezTom BradyTony Romo and Carson Daly all make the trip to Pebble beach for the Clambake.
In recent years you can add Justin Timberlake, Alice Cooper, Kenny G, Condoleezza Rice, Ray Romano, Larry The Cable Guy and Wayne Gretzky to that list.

The tournament's picturesque finishing 18th hole (shown above in the 1960 Bing Crosy Pro-Am) is at Pebble Beach Golf Links on Monterey Bay.

President Gerald Ford, Arnold Palmer, Hale Irwin, Jonny Miller, Glen Campbell -- oh yes, Jack Nicklaus too.

Other celebrity sponsored tournaments included the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic (now the FedEx St. Jude Classic), the Bob Hope Desert Classic (now the CareerBuilder Challenge), the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open (now the Northern Trust Open), the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic (now the Honda Classic), the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open (now the Travelers Championship), and, most recently, the Justin Timberlake Shriner Hospitals for Children Open (now the Shriner Hospitals for Children Open). Corporate sponsorship and its massive influx of dollars in the Tiger Woods era has crowded out celebrity naming rights on the PGA Tour.

Here are clips from some of the oldies.

A major on the women's tour, now known as the ANA Inspiration, was hosted by Dinah Shore for almost three decades and was variously known as:

  • 1972–80: Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner's Circle
  • 1981: Colgate-Dinah Shore
  • 1982: Nabisco Dinah Shore Invitational
  • 1983–99: Nabisco Dinah Shore

Jamie Farr awarding winner's check, 2012.
Jamie Farr, aka Corporal Klinger on M*A*S*H, hosted the LPGA event in Toledo for 28 years.

With most tour events now completely corporatized I am reminded of one the first tournaments to go by a corporate name, the now defunct Kemper Open. For a number of years the Kemper Open was conducted in the Washington, DC area, first at Congressional Country Club then at TPC Avenel, just up Persimmon Tree Road. I remember in the early 1980s when Fred Couples won his first tournament -- the Kemper at Congressional. I remember his wife about jumped his bones on the 18th green after he sank the winning putt.

The Gadsden Times, June 6, 1983
Its corporate lineage notwithstanding, for me the Kemper Open had a personal connection, because James S. Kemper President and Chairman of the Board of Kemper insurance, was a member at Glen View Club where I caddied. Kemper lived for the season in one of the "cottages" off the left side of the first hole. 

I found this news item that validate's Mr. Kemper's membership.

"THE VALENTINE Party that Pooped!" is the title of a poem by Joan and Jim Kemper which has been sent to those they invited to a Valentine dinner- dance at the Glen View Club Feb. 13. More than half of their guests would be away, the Kempers learned, and wrote: "Our plans collapsed, our spirits drooped-Quite obviously our party. pooped!/Oh, what to do? What should we do?/We'll plan another 'do' for you/And hope and pray/It'll be as gay /As the one we canceled for Valentine's Day/Because our friends will be away."

Chicago Tribune Feb. 2, 1971

James Kemper was inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.

James Kemper

Inducted: 1992
The passion Jim Kemper exhibited for golf extended far beyond normal boundaries. He was best known as the man who gave daily-fee players the highly-regarded Kemper Lakes Golf Course in Hawthorne Woods, but professional golf benefited from his company's sponsorship of the Kemper Open on both the PGA and LPGA tours. Kemper Lakes played gracious host to the 1989 PGA Championship, the Illinois PGA Championship for 24 years, as well as senior events, two USGA championships and five editions of the Grand Slam of Golf. An ardent philanthropist, Kemper was given the 1987 Card Walker Award for his dedication to inner-city golf through his involvement with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Kemper was long an advocate of bringing the game - and the many lessons the game can teach - to underprivileged children in the inner city.

Like his tournament, Mr. Kemper is with us no more.

James S. Kemper Jr., 88

Leader of insurance giant championed alcohol rehab

July 05, 2002 | By James Janega, Tribune staff reporter.

James S. Kemper Jr., 88, former head of Kemper Insurance Cos. and a recovered alcoholic who became a pioneer in national alcoholism rehabilitation programs, died Tuesday, July 2, in his vacation home in Pauma Valley, Calif. He had been recovering from a heart attack suffered a few weeks ago, said Linda Kingman, a spokeswoman for the insurance company.

During his 10 years as chairman and chief executive of Kemper Insurance beginning in 1969--and continuing while chairman of Kemper's major entities until 1986--he created an employee assistance program for substance abuse that became a national model.

"The most expensive way to handle alcoholics is to fire or ignore them," he later told an Internet substance-abuse treatment site. "The most profitable and effective way is to help them recover."

President Jimmy Carter named him to the National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Related Problems in the late 1970s, and President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving. He was later chairman of the board of trustees of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.

During his tenure at Kemper Insurance, the corporation expanded into both insurance and financial services. The organization moved from property-casualty insurance into life insurance, reinsurance and financial securities in the 1970s, and embarked on a buying spree of regional property-casualty insurance companies.

Born in Chicago two years after his father founded the mutual insurance company, Mr. Kemper held a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University.

He was a naval intelligence officer in the Pacific theater during World War II. Before joining his father's company in 1960, he practiced law in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Mr. Kemper transformed the family company into a major services group in 1967 with the formation of the publicly held Kemper Corp. The corporation was sold to Zurich Insurance Group in 1996.

Active in Republican politics throughout his professional life, Mr. Kemper was a delegate to several GOP conventions and encouraged others in the business community to be active in governmental affairs.

He also was an avid golfer, an avocation that led him to use the sport as a promotional vehicle for Kemper Insurance through events like the PGA tour's Kemper Insurance Open, which began in 1968, as well as the former Women's Kemper Open on the LPGA tour. Mr. Kemper was elected to the advisory board of the Professional Golfers' Association, and continued after retirement as chairman of Kemper Sports Management Inc., which manages Kemper Lakes Golf Course in Long Grove.

Mr. Kemper is survived by his wife, Joan; three sons, James S. III, Stephen and Robert; two daughters, Linda Fair and Judith Lewis; two stepdaughters, Christina Gidwitz and Jan Fotre; a stepson, Dr. Terry Fotre; two sisters, Mildred Terrill and Rosemary Thomas; 11 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. July 23 in the Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago.
Anyhow, I am just rambling. Cheers, until the next.

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