Champions Tour golf is coming back to Boston in 2015, and will be making its return in a major way.
The Constellation Senior Players Championship, which offers the second-largest purse on the 50-and-over tour and is one of the circuit’s five major championships, will be played next year at Belmont Country Club. Tournament dates for the 72-hole, no-cut event, with an expected field of approximately 80 players, are June 11-14, 2015. An official announcement is expected Monday morning on the Golf Channel.
“To have a Champions Tour major come to the New England area is fantastic news,” said Rhode Island resident Brad Faxon, who has two wins since joining the Champions Tour in 2011. “Belmont Country Club has a superb reputation as one of the finest courses in Boston, and the Constellation Senior Players Championship is certainly one of the most significant and important tournaments we have on the Champions Tour. It’s our championship.”
For 28 years, from 1981 to 2008, the Champions Tour made an annual stop in the Boston market, with the Bank of America Championship at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord crowning a group of winners that included Arnold Palmer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Hale Irwin, Craig Stadler, Jay Haas, and Allen Doyle.
Those same names — plus Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, and defending champion Kenny Perry — are found on the list of winners at the Constellation Senior Players Championship, which was first played in 1983. The tournament has been staged at nine locations in its 31-year history, and will be held for the third straight year next month at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh.
But because the US Open is coming to Pittsburgh in 2016 (to be held at Oakmont), the tour and the Senior Players Championship title sponsor felt a change of venue starting in 2015 would be best. Boston quickly emerged as a strong candidate.
“Boston seemed to be a natural fit. There hasn’t been a Champions Tour event there in several years, and we think it’s the right time,” said Brian Goin, senior vice president for championship management at the PGA Tour, who had initial discussions with Belmont last August. “It’s something we’re really excited about, bringing the Champions Tour back to Boston, and a major at that.”
Said Joe Rotellini, who has been the tournament’s executive director the past two years: “There’s proven success there, not only with the event at Nashawtuc, but a US Senior Open was held at Salem [Country Club]. History has shown that the community has excitement for the Champions Tour.”
The deal between Belmont and the tour, which was signed late last week, is only for the 2015 tournament, but includes an option for 2016 and/or 2017. Constellation, which began doing competitive energy business in Massachusetts in 1997, has an agreement with the tour to sponsor the event through 2017.
At $2.7 million, the purse at this year’s Constellation Senior Players Championship is higher than the other four majors — US Senior Open, Senior British Open, Senior PGA Championship, and the Regions Tradition — and is eclipsed on the Champions Tour schedule only by the Legends of Golf, a two-man team competition.
“Belmont Country Club is a fantastic track, a great club organization. We’re nothing but excited about partnering with them,” said Bruce Stewart, chief marketing officer for Constellation. “[Boston] is a town that loves competition, and we do, too.”
Belmont Country Club offers an 18-hole course that was designed by Donald Ross, and boasts a long history of hosting a variety of local and national tournaments. It’s been the site of five Massachusetts Opens (1914, 1933, 1947, 1962, 2009), four Massachusetts Amateurs (1929, 1956, 1973, 1998), the 1916 US Women’s Amateur, and was the scene of a 1920 exhibition match featuring Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, and Francis Ouimet. Byron Nelson’s second of two PGA Tour victories in 1937 came there at the Belmont Match Play, which paid him $3,000, twice the amount he earned for winning the Masters that year.
“Belmont Country Club is thrilled to partner with the Constellation Senior Players Championship and looks forward to welcoming some of the game’s best players in 2015,” Peter Kotzen, president of Belmont Country Club, said in a statement. “It’s an honor for our course and our members to host a Champions Tour major.”
Once word reaches the players, expect a similar reaction, said Billy Andrade, a Champions Tour rookie also from Rhode Island. He hasn’t played Belmont in more than 30 years, but he’s already excited about going back.
“I finished third in the New England Amateur there when I was a freshman in college,” Andrade said of that 1982 tournament, won by Jim Hallet. “Bringing Champions Tour golf back to golf-rich New England and golf-rich Massachusetts, I couldn’t be happier. The [PGA Tour’s] Deutsche Bank Championship has been very popular up there, it’s been exciting, and now to have a major championship for the Champions Tour come up there and to have golf at our level back up there, it’s just fantastic.”