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Volume 20 No. 42
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Reno-Tahoe Open carries on without title sponsor, with some help from Daly and loud pants

The Reno-Tahoe Open resides in a rather subdued portion of the PGA Tour schedule, opposite the WGC event at Firestone this week.

But the tournament’s executive director, Jana Smoley, has found a sponsor that can help the tournament make some noise. Loudmouth, the maker of those ridiculously colorful golf slacks worn by John Daly, has signed on as presenting sponsor of a new fan party zone called The Shack next to the 18th hole at Montreux Golf Club in Reno, Nev.

As one of only two PGA Tour events without a title sponsor — Tampa is the other — Reno-Tahoe Open organizers have been forced to be thriftier than most tournaments that have a big-check-writing title sponsor. It’s what Smoley describes as a “piecemeal approach” that uses revenue from several sponsors to cover the cost of the tournament.

The Eldorado Casino, NV Energy, AT&T, Atlantis Resort, Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, and the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority are among the tournament’s biggest sponsors, with deals hovering around $100,000 a year.

The sponsorship is being sold for $1.8 million a year, which is typical for opposite-field events on Golf Channel.

The relationship with Loudmouth executives began two years ago through Daly, who has become something of an unofficial ambassador for the tournament. In fact, he is volunteering his time to sign autographs one day during tournament week at The Shack.

“He’s really been helpful, especially when it came to putting us in touch with Loudmouth,” Smoley said. “When we took the idea to Loudmouth, I could tell they were hesitant about it because this is not really the kind of thing they do. But the more we developed the idea, the more they liked it.”

Smoley reached out to a Reno-based event-planning specialist, Eventive Entertainment, to help bring the concept to life. A variety of food and a cocktail garden will be available at The Shack, and each evening after the golf, fans will be invited to stay for music and more partying. A standard ticket is good for admission to the open-air space.

With the tournament moving to the Modified Stableford scoring system this year, organizers were trying to think of a marketing scheme that emphasizes the new points structure, which rewards aggressive play rather than traditional stroke play.

Following the sequence of marketing slogans and ideas: The scoring system led to “Go for it,” which led to a gopher mascot that makes appearances to drum up publicity in the area. The gopher led to visions of “Caddyshack” and eventually The Shack, the fan party zone at the 18th.

Loudmouth is the presenting sponsor of the roughly 10,000-square-foot area between water hazards, and the turf-covered floor of the The Shack will be painted in one of Loudmouth’s multicolored patterns. Loudmouth clothing will be for sale at The Shack as well as at other merchandise outlets around Montreux, and tournament workers will be wearing the hard-to-miss pants as well.

“We’re in a position where we have to do things to differentiate our tournament,” said Smoley, who is entering her third year as the tournament’s chief. “We’re trying to let everyone in the area know that we’re more than a golf tournament. Much of what we’re doing is to try to draw that younger demographic out to the course and show them everything that’s going on, in addition to the golf.”