Thanks To Golf Southern Arizona Is Viewed Around The World

PGA TOUR Commissioner, Tim Finchem, CBS Sports Chairman, Sean McManus, and NBC Sports Group Chairman, Mark Lazarus, announced in September the completion of unprecedented broadcast network television agreements that will secure the PGA TOUR’s television rights for the next 10 years.

NBC will continue to have a strong first quarter of coverage, which will include the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in our own backyard. This makes locals like me especially happy as local-broadcaster-gone-big-time, Dan Hicks, is in the booth with Johnny Miller, the Desert Fox. Miller who won here four times—three straight from 1974-1976 at Omni Tucson National, then a win in 1981 at Randolph—speaks well of the Tucson area on air. Did you know the behind the scenes guys, Tommy Roy and Tom Randolph with NBC Sports, also have ties to Tucson? It’s a regular family reunion when the NBC crew rolls in to town.

When reading this news, it dawned on me: The Tucson Conquistadores were true visionaries. Close to 50 years ago, their strategic plan was to host professional golf and secure national television coverage. The Tucson Conquistadores will celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary in October 2012.

The group’s founders were the business and community leaders of their day. Charter members still with us include Fred Boice, Tom Chandler, Dr. Bob Felix, Al Kivel, Buck O’Rielly and Chuck Pettis. Now that we have begun planning our 50th anniversary celebration, we are recording our get-togethers with these members, as they reminisce about the early years, including their negotiations for national television coverage of the Tucson Open.

In 1966, the Conquistadores adopted the Tucson Open golf tournament. They turned the fledging PGA TOUR event into an exciting professional sporting and community event. Securing national television to showcase Tucson was as much their mission as raising funds for deserving young athletes.

Our early members accomplished this feat by recruiting Dean Martin to be the celebrity host of the tournament in the early 70’s. Martin’s contract with the Conquistadores was signed on a cocktail napkin at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Next came the Dean Martin Tucson Open, televised on NBC. (As I type N B C, I can hear the distinctive N B C bell tone…can you?)

As it is today, the same held true in 1973: TV brings the money. The network’s additional financial support in 1973 allowed the Conquistadores to increase the purse to $150,000. Of course, the City of Tucson chipped in a few bucks; it was the best ad value around to showcase our gorgeous region.

Since 1973, the Tucson Open changed its name with the arrival of each new sponsor; there were just as many network monikers. They’ve all been here: ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC, The Golf Channel. Remember the CNBC, USA and PAX days?

Today, the tournament is broadcast in over 200 countries with unprecedented television ratings.

The value of this for our community? Priceless.

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