GM back as golf sponsor, with Cadillac at Doral

Posted Nov. 29, 2010, at 6 p.m.

DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Sponsor or no sponsor, the PGA Tour was coming back to Doral in 2011, even if no outside party was willing to pay the bill.

“It would have been expensive,” Commissioner Tim Finchem quipped.

That’s no longer a worry for Finchem when it comes to Doral, at least through 2016. Cadillac and the PGA Tour announced a six-year sponsorship deal Monday, the latest step by General Motors in its emergence from bankruptcy protection. The sides will meet again in the coming weeks to talk about extending the arrangement.

Doral’s stop next March will be known as the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, and Cadillac also is now an umbrella sponsor of WGC events, as well. The deal has been expected for some time, and Finchem said he never experienced any angst about the chance of coming to Doral without a sponsor in March.

“Any time you’re in a downturn, it takes longer to get things done,” Finchem said. “Companies just generally work very, very hard to study all the options and price points and evaluate options. … It was worth the wait. We would have preferred, obviously, to get started a little earlier.”

Monday’s deal was the first of several Finchem is expected to reveal in the coming days. The PGA Tour’s 2011 schedule, with 47 events, will be released Thursday, although Finchem said “one or two” will not show a title sponsor.

“We’re virtually 100 percent sponsored, just short of it,” Finchem said. “But we don’t anticipate any issues there. … We have more tournaments than we can put on the schedule, candidly, but we have to be loyal to our historic tournament partners, and that’s what we’re trying. So we’re going through a bit of a transition.”

So, too, is Cadillac and GM’s approach to golf.

Finchem said Cadillac has assured him that it will be “fully engaged” at Doral within the next few weeks. Cadillac and the PGA Tour are also in talks about bringing golf back to the Detroit area, although Finchem said it would be premature to expect a stop there as early as 2012.

Last year, the automaker ended its half-century run as sponsor of the Buick Open golf tournament near Flint, Mich., as it cut expenses while under bankruptcy court protection. Buick ended a nine-year endorsement deal with golf superstar Tiger Woods in 2008.

Buick had been the longest-standing corporate sponsor on the PGA Tour and once had its name on four tournaments — the Buick Classic in New York, the Buick Challenge in Georgia, the Buick Open and the Buick Invitational. It also took over the Buick Championship in Connecticut for three years after the Georgia event folded.

“I think it’s safe to assume from today’s announcement and from how we’re positioning the brand that Cadillac will be the face of golf for GM going forward,” Cadillac marketing Vice President Don Butler said. “It makes sense for our target customers, it makes sense for what we think of the brand.”

GM has returned to profitability. It made $4.2 billion through the first three quarters of this year despite slow auto sales in the U.S. The company shed much of its debt and slimmed down to just four brands as it went through bankruptcy court last year, allowing it to make money on far lower sales volumes.

Butler said Cadillac views Doral as the right fit at the right time.

“We reach the right audience. We reach it in the right way,” Butler said. “It’s all about the presence of being able to target the right kind of customer for us, the affluent customer interested in luxury vehicles, the prominence of being associated with the PGA and the terrific players, the best players in the world playing at the highest level.”

Doral is on the 2011 schedule for March 10-13.

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AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

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