The 25th 3M Championship had a fine start on Friday, with the traditional battle of birdies at TPC Twin Cities. Kenny Perry, a Champions Tour star, and Mike Goodes, a one-time winner back in 2009, were at the top with 7-under 65s.
Across town, the Greats of Golf were participating in a pro-am with 3M clients and employees at North Oaks. Chi Chi Rodriguez made a hole-in-one on the par-3 8th.
“With a driver!” Lee Trevino said. “That’s how old we’re getting: using drivers to make an ace.”
As tournaments go on the senior tour, 25 years has earned the longevity equivalent of the three players in the Saturday’s featured Greats group: Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
This event started in 1993 as the Burnet Classic at Bunker Hills. That ties it with Birmingham, Ala. (Regions Tradition), for second place in Champions Tour seniority, trailing only the Naples, Fla., tournament that started in 1988 and continues as the Chubb Classic.
In all ways, for popularity and dollars for charity, the annual summer appearance of the seniors has been an uncommon success in this market. And it’s not over yet.
OK, probably not.
“We have a contract to have this tournament again next year,” said Hollis Cavner, executive director of the 3M Championship. “That is what we would like to do. We’ve also told the PGA Tour that if it needed us for a tour event next year, we would be ready to go.”
The PGA Tour owns the main tour, along with the Champions and Web.com. There’s a chance that a summer option might appear on the schedule of the main tour for 2018.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from anybody,” Cavner said. “There could be a tournament that wants to move elsewhere on the calendar. There could be another issue that would open a spot.”
There’s also a strong chance the PGA Tour schedule is going to undergo a major change in a few years, with The Players going back to March, the PGA Championship moving to May and the Tour Championship being held in early September.
That would make for a very compact schedule — meaning, there’s no waiting if the Twin Cities is presented a chance to get on the PGA Tour schedule in the summer of 2018.
The rumor around the TPC Twin Cities this week has been that the promoters of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional want to get away from Fourth of July weekend. It’s steaming hot in Washington D.C. then, and there is also much patriotic competition in the Nation’s Capital.
“I’d love that week,” Cavner said. “We would have a Fourth of July celebration for everyone . We would turn it into a great party.”
You could see the fireworks sparking in his eyes. He looked like Francis Scott Cavner.
“There’s nothing set; it’s something that could happen,” Cavner said. “I’d like to have the Champions Tour here again in 2018. If we get to 2019 and nothing has happened, we would have to explore our options.”
Cavner was the driving force behind this event when it started as the Burnet Senior Classic in 1993. There wasn’t much promotion done around the idea of this being the 25th tournament, but here’s the good news:
You get married in 1993 and what are you celebrating in 2018? The 25th anniversary. That could be the sendoff next August: the 25th anniversary senior event at TPC Twin Cities.
An event on the PGA Tour requires many more dollars. Apparently, 3M is ready to commit to that. It also would require a much more challenging test than what the Champions have been playing here on the TPC’s extra-wide fairways in Blaine.
“A few years ago, Arnie [Palmer] gave us a design for a new set of tees to add another 400 or 500 yards,” Cavner said. “The TPC crew can also tighten the fairways, grow grass around the greens and make the pins a little tougher.
“Plus, there’s nothing wrong with birdies. I like tournaments with lots of birdies.”
No matter the future here, Pro Links Sports — the company for which Cavner is the CEO — won’t be leaving the Champions Tour without an Upper Midwest home. There’s a Champions event starting in September 2018 in Sioux Falls, S.D., with Sanford Health as the name sponsor and Cambria signed on as the presenting sponsor.
“That tournament is going to be tremendous,” Cavner said.
I think he’s right — so tremendous that it’s hard to imagine where Hollis’ daily attendance estimates might land in Year One.