AKRON, Ohio — For 68 years, Firestone Country Club has hosted a professional golf event.
As the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship tees off on Thursday, the event welcomes back fans to one of Akron’s signature events.
Aside from a livelier atmosphere at the course, fans draw in money for events, which in turn means more dollars go out to local charities through the tournament. Last year, despite the pandemic, the Senior Players Championship was able to give back $772,000.
“It’s a big thing, not only for Akron but for all of Northeast Ohio,” said Bridgestone Executive Director Don Padgett. “Anybody has been a great golfer since the mid -1950s has walked the fairways here at Firestone.”
Since 1984, there has been more than $30 million given to area charities through professional tournaments at Firestone. When the WGC Bridgestone Invitational packed up its back after the 2018 season and headed for Memphis, officials were concerned about the financial impact on the area.
“We really landed in a good spot with Bridgestone Senior Players because we were still able to give back,” Padgett said. “What this event has is actually a Pro-AM which is a good charity fundraiser for us.”
But the event has more than financial implications on the area. Aside from bringing in thousands of spectators and giving the economy a multi-million-dollar jolt, professional golf at Firestone is a source of pride.
This is why the event has transitioned into a more family-friendly event, as opposed to attracting the ardent golf fan.
The club will host several food trucks including from Slyman’s Tavern. There will be concerts after each round concludes beginning Friday with the Sunrise Jones, which was the house band at the NFL Draft in Cleveland in April.
On Saturday, Northeast Ohio’s country band, The Shootouts, will perform songs from their new album with the group receiving national accolades on Rollingstone.com. On Sunday, following the tournament trophy ceremony, the Akron Symphony Orchestra will showcase 30 musicians performing American Bandstand presented by Fleet Response, a program featuring family-friendly patriotic, summer concert music on the driving range.
“We really strive for it to be a community event. We know what we were going to get a majority of the golf fans, but when people attend the golf tournament, that’s how we’re able to raise funds for charity,” Padgett said. “Everybody likes music. Everybody likes food, so we’re tapping into both of those wheelhouses.”
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