People in the Akron area have a long history with professional golf at the famed Firestone Country Club. And while I'm glad that Bridgestone will continue that tradition by bringing in the Senior Players Championship—a major event on the Champions Tour—to the course beginning in 2019, I am sad to see the end of a more than six-decade run of PGA Tour events at Firestone.
Professional golf at Firestone dates back to 1954, with the Rubber City Open, an event held until 1959. The PGA Championship took place at Firestone in 1960, followed by the American Golf Classic from 1961 to 1976.
I have fond memories of the American Golf Classic. My uncle was an engineer at Firestone and the company—still owners of the country club at this point—gave out tickets to employees. My uncle generally passed on the tickets for one of the days to my dad, so he could take our family out.
I remember standing off the 18th green as a child, collecting autographs from some of the greats of the games. I have signatures from such legends as Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Tom Weiskopf and many others.
Firestone Country Club also hosted the World Series of Golf beginning in 1962. That started off as a "Made for TV" event pitting the winners of the year's four majors against each other, but then morphed in 1977 into an expanded World Series of Golf sponsored by NEC, and then the prestigious World Golf Championship event that has been sponsored by Bridgestone since 2006.
It seemed right when Bridgestone became the title sponsor for the event held at Firestone Country Club, even though the course was sold off before Bridgestone bought Firestone in 1989.
But money is changing all that. Federal Express pays a bundle to sponsor the PGA's FedEx Cup, and wanted its event in Memphis, Tenn., to be a WGC event.
Bridgestone made the best of it, committing to sponsor the Senior Players Championship for the next four years. It's a nice consolation prize for a city that has supported golf here for so long. But in many other ways, it seems like the end of an era.