On Tuesday, American Honda Motor Company announced that it has extended its title sponsorship of the Honda Classic for another five years, continuing to make Honda the longest standing sponsor with the PGA Tour. Honda, who began sponsoring the Honda Classic in 1982, was in the last year of its current contract. With the extension, their name will be on the Palm Beach Gardens event through the 2021 event under the new deal.
“One of the things we really talked about in the extension was keeping the team together,” said Steve Morikawa, American Honda’s assistant vice president of corporate and community relations. “That’s Honda as the title sponsor, the PGA Tour, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and (Honda Classic Executive Director) Ken Kennerly and his management team."
Since the Honda Classic moved to its new permanent home at PGA National in 2007, the fields have improved and thus the attendance numbers have continued to grow. Despite the bad weather that effected the first three days of the tournament last year, 168,900 people came to PGA National to watch the first stop of the Tour's "Florida Swing". When Rory Mcllroy lost to Russel Henley in a playoff in 2014, a record 193,052 people attended. It's been a big improvement over the 30,000 or so that used to attend when it was held across the street at The Country Club at Mirasol.
“Before we started together with this team over 10 years ago, it was really a tournament that moved around quite a bit," Morikawa added. "The amount of people coming to the tournament was in the range of 30,000 and 40,000 people. Funds were just OK. But in those 10 years, we’ve gone now to where we’re drawing almost 200,000 peo ple and giving over $2.5 million, so part of this extension is that we all join together and agree to work together for the benefit of the community.”
Honda has steyed strong with its commitment to the event, despite the event's struggles for decades. From 1972-2002, the event bounced around Broward County. When Honda took over the naming rights in 1982 the event was in the middle of a eight year run at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs. From there it moved out to Weston Hills from 1992-1995 before making a one year return to TPC Eagle Trace in '96. Its final stop in Broward came just up the road at TPC Herron Bay where it resided until it went to Palm Beach County in 2003 at Mirasol.
No question that the quality of course has changed the luck of the event. The Champion Course at PGA National is constantly voted one of the most challenging and favorite amongst Tour pros year in and year out and that success has benefited everyone, from the fans down to the beneficiaries. The Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation is the tournament's primary beneficiary, and they were amongst the 48 charities in Palm Beach County that recieved a total of just under $3 million in 2015.