<
>

Minimum opening bid set at $1.1M annually

ENDICOTT, N.Y. -- In a move that is certain to attract a lot
of attention and might even start a trend, the organizers of the
B.C. Open have decided to sell the title sponsorship of the PGA
tournament to the highest bidder -- on the Internet.

It marks the first time a professional sporting event has done
so.

"We're experimenting with e-Bay," Alex Alexander, who founded
the B.C. Open in 1971, said Monday, just hours after the 10-day
auction began. "We put a couple of pro-am spots for sale, and they
went just like that -- bang, bang, bang -- within five days. I bet
you if it's successful, you're going to hear more of it."

Net Tour Strategies (NTS), the official marketing agent of the
B.C. Open, began the auction Monday. It carries a
minimum opening bid of $1.1 million per year for a two-year deal.

By late afternoon, NTS said traffic on the Web site was
"substantial" but declined to give a figure.

"It's getting an awful lot of attention, but a million-dollar
decision doesn't happen quickly," NTS president Kirk Pagenkopf
said. "We've been relatively pleased with the traffic on the
site."

It figures the B.C. Open, which has donated around $5 million to
charity since its inception, would be at the forefront of something
so radical. Since it became an official stop on the PGA Tour in
1973, it has never had a title sponsor, instead relying on several
sponsors over the years, and remains the only event played on a
municipal golf course.

"We've tried to get a title sponsor for years. We've been close
but never made it, so we thought why not try it, we've got nothing
to lose," Alexander said. "We've always been innovative. If it
works, great. If it doesn't, it didn't cost a dime."

The title sponsorship includes such perks as national television
coverage on The Golf Channel, a comprehensive TV, print and
electronic advertising package, VIP boxes and ticket packages.

"I think it will start a trend, it's a great vehicle,"
Pagenkopf said. "We're looking at another variety of sponsorships.
Who knows how big they could get?"

If the auction is a success, Alexander said the winner would
have to be accepted by the PGA Tour before a deal could be
finalized.

This has been a somewhat trying year for the tournament. In
March, Endicott's board of trustees fired John L. Karedes as
En-Joie's manager after a citizens' advisory committee alleged that
the club overspent its budget by $2.3 million.

The ongoing political rancor about En-Joie's management ignited
rumors that the PGA might move the tournament.

"We're alive and well," Alexander said Monday. "We're doing
OK. Politics is local stuff. We like to be above that."

After the PGA Tour's television contract is signed this fall,
Tim Crosby, director of tournament business affairs for the PGA
Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., said the tour and Broome Charities
will talk about renewing the B.C. Open's tournament agreement
beyond 2002.

The B.C. Open is in the smallest market and has the smallest
purse on tour. Brad Faxon took home $350,000 for his victory in
last year's event, which drew a crowd between 65,000 to 70,000,
according to Alexander.

The B.C. Open, named after Johnny Hart's comic strip, is
scheduled this summer for July 19-22, the second straight year it
will be the same week as the British Open.