BROUSSARD, La. -- One of the oldest events in Nationwide Tour history -- and Acadiana's premier professional sports event -- will be around for several more years.
The Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the PGA TOUR jointly announced a four-year contract extension that will continue to bring professional golf and the Nationwide Tour to the area through the Open's silver-anniversary 2016 season.
The Open, which is in the middle of its pre-tournament activities for this year and kicks off championship play on Thursday over the Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club layout, has become a fixture in the Acadiana area in its 21 years. Monday's announcement ensures that the event -- one that has raised nearly $4 million for local and area charities -- will remain a fixture on both the Nationwide Tour schedule and the local sports scene.
"Now our community, our sponsors and our fans and supporters know we're in it for the long haul," said Open executive director Danny Jones, who joined tournament and Tour officials at Le Triomphe Monday for the announcement. "We know how important it is for this area to have this tournament, and we wanted to make sure that the people who love this Tour and the charities that count on us know that we'll be here for them."
"This tournament has been an outstanding event on the Nationwide Tour for the past 21 years," said Bill Calfee, president of the Nationwide Tour. "Its impact in Lafayette and in south Louisiana from an economic and charitable perspective has been very impressive. We look forward to growing this partnership in the years ahead and to positively influencing the lives of the many deserving people the event touches."
The Chitimacha Louisiana Open became part of a recognized professional tour in 1992 when it partnered with the then two-year-old Ben Hogan Tour for a $125,000 event. The purse has since quadrupled, and several Open champions have gone on to find the winner's circle on the PGA TOUR -- including Paul Stankowski, who won the PGA TOUR's BellSouth Classic in Atlanta only one week after taking the Louisiana Open title. More importantly, the Open has raised $1.65 million for charity over the past eight years as part of that nearly $4 million total -- the great majority of that going to youth-related charities that provide essential services.
"We know that what we do ensures that some kids will have a hot meal and a place to sleep tonight," said long-time Open chairman Harry Patin. "We take that very seriously, and that's why knowing that the tournament and the Nationwide Tour are partnered for four more years is important."
The four-year partnership announced Monday runs through the 2016 tournament, which will be the 25th anniversary of the local event. The Open had been operating under a two-year agreement with the Tour that expired with this year's tournament.
"Any time a contract is expiring, people start to question what's next, what's going to happen in the future," Jones said. "We wanted to do a four-year agreement both for the future of the tournament and to be the best partner with the Tour we can be, and we also wanted to get this done before this year's tournament.
"Lafayette and Acadiana have always been incredible supporters of this tournament, and our board felt it was important to show that we will continue to bring this great event here. We've always said that our task is to put on a golf tournament, but our mission is to help the charities and groups that make a difference in everyone's lives."
Activities in this year's tournament began Monday with the Dwight Andrus Insurance Pro-Am and the Cypress Bayou Casino Pairings Party. Player practice rounds and the Capital One Bank Taste of Acadiana Party are set for Tuesday, and the AT&T Pro-Am and the Grey Goose Pro-Am will be held Wednesday. Championship play in the 72-hole event is scheduled to begin at approximately 7:40 a.m. Thursday, with the 144-player field cut to the low 60 and ties after Friday's second round. The final round for the Nationwide Tour's first U.S. stop of the season is set for Sunday.