AKRON, Ohio - Things were bittersweet for golf fans in Akron Thursday morning when officials announced the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament will leave the city. The tournament will be replaced by the Senior Players Championship starting in 2019.
Officials said the new championship will be in Akron for at least the next four years. The tournament will run from July 8 to 14 starting in 2019. Golf officials said the Players and Senior Players event will be a major championship.
When the Bridgestone Invitational tees off this August for its final time, it will mark the 65th anniversary of professional golf in Akron. The venue brings anywhere from 75 to 90 thousand fans and millions of dollars in revenue to Akron.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan released the following statement regarding Bridgestone Invitational moving:
“The Bridgestone Senior Players will be a welcome new chapter in the long and distinguished history of professional golf at Firestone Country Club through at least 2022. While it is difficult to watch the Bridgestone Invitational discontinue it’s nearly two decade run in Akron, the global chips simply did not fall in our favor.
The senior champions are known to be accessible and uniquely engaging players and we look forward to welcoming them to our community and incredible course with open arms. We are confident that the economic and charitable impact of the Senior Players major will continue to be a great benefit for Akron and region.”
For years the Bridgestone Invitational has benefited local charities in Akron. Brian J. Moore, president of the Northern Ohio Golf Charity Foundation, said he's optimistic the tradition will continue with the arrival of the Senior Players Championships.
"Northern Ohio Golf Charities and its Foundation have a very long history with professional golf and the PGA Tour organization. Bridgestone too has been at our side in the endeavor for many years. As a result of these relationships and those that preceded what was the Bridgestone Invitational-World Golf Championships, millions upon millions of dollars have been donated to worthy charitable causes in Northeast Ohio. While we may not yet be aware of all the particulars of how this new opportunity – the PGA Tour Champions Senior Players Championship, will continue the charitable traditions of our past tournaments, there is every reason to be optimistic that the Tour and this Seniors Players Championship – with the four year commitment from Bridgestone, will indeed be a great thing for our community and for charity. The Senior Player events are known to be generously supportive of the charities where events are held. No doubt we will witness that in person starting in July 2019.
The players on the Senior Tour are in for a real treat as they return to Firestone Country Club and our volunteer organization. We believe we have the best volunteer organization of any tournament and we are going to welcome this new event, its players and our tournament guests with open arms and incredible hospitality."
Embracing Futures, a non-profit that helps pay for the cost of braces for kids, has received $30,000 in each of the last few years thanks to the tournament.
"Obviously, there's a concern with the tournament changing," said Jennifer Film, a social worker with Embracing Futures. "We don't know the future at this time. We will continue to volunteer and assist out there as much as we can in hopes that we will get some funding in the future."
Akron Children's Hospital has received $1.7 million in contributions through Northern Ohio Golf Charities.
The money has made improvements to the NICU, expressive therapy center, cancer center and other areas.
John LaGuardia, the executive director of the hospital's foundation, said it's unclear if future donations will be made to the Akron Children's, but he expects conversations to continue.
"You're disappointed to lose something like that, but it does open the door for people to look at supporting the hospital," he said.