Eiger Marketing's Tim Erensen talks future of PGA Tour Champions' Chubb Classic in Collier
The clock is ticking for Eiger Marketing's Tim Erensen.
Even though this is the week of the Chubb Classic, it's already only 10 months until the next one.
The PGA Tour Champions' event was moved to April from its usual mid-February date this year, partly due to the hope that the coronavirus pandemic would have waned enough to have fans.
That didn't happen, at least to the point to allow fans this week at its scheduled one-year home, the Black Course at Tiburón Golf Club.
"We have really enjoyed the week here," said Erensen, Eiger's managing partner who was the tournament director in Naples decades ago before moving up in management company Octagon. "(Tiburón general manager) Kevin (DeDonato) has obviously been a friend for a long time. The staff here is amazing. The golf course is representing us and the property as well as anybody could've hoped for. And the feedback from the players has been off the charts in a positive way."
Erensen and DeDonato worked together when DeDonato was at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club, the host course of the LPGA Tour's ShopRite Classic, which Erensen ran.
Erensen hopes to have the 2022 venue announced by mid-July. And it may end up being more than one home after that. Whatever the case, it will be back at those mid-February usual dates, and in Collier County, according to Erensen.
"We're right in the middle of it — COVID has made it more challenging to have those conversations," Erensen said. "And they've always been challenging conversations to have down here.
"We're in active discussions I would say with half a dozen clubs. I would hope in the next 90 days or so, we're not only ready to announce where we're going to play in 2022, but hopefully at least a few years beyond that as well."
The pandemic also continues to play a role in that situation.
"Nobody quite knows what next year is going to bring," he said. "There's a lot of unknowns even in the conversations that we're having."
Regardless of that uncertainty, Erensen is upbeat about the continued support of the title sponsor, Chubb, which has been in that role since 1999 when it was called The ACE Group.
"I think Chubb's commitment to the tour has never been stronger," he said. "Their commitment to the marketplace has always been as strong as you could possibly imagine. They love Naples. They love bringing their executives here."
When Eiger Marketing took over from longtime tournament owner/manager Octagon back in August, it announced a three-year extension with Chubb through 2023, and later a three-year deal with SERVPRO as presenting sponsor.
"It always makes sense for this event to be at a club that has more than 18 holes, so you're not a total disruption to members or hotel guests or whatever it is," he said. "The other part is that the event has always been about adding publicity to the profile of a facility.
"When clubs are full and tee sheets are full and there's no dirt to sell, this event has come full circle from the conversations we were having 20 years ago, it was clubs lining up to write checks to us, and now that model has totally flipped."
Tiburón is the 10th different course to host the tournament, and some of those have had repeat performances. TwinEagles was the venue from 2002-06, and then again from 2012-18, so it's hosted the most. The tournament was at The Classics at Lely Resort, which hosted it back in 1996, for the past two years, and both of those were announced mere months before the actual event.
Tiburón was announced in mid-October, along with the move from February to April.
Erensen is hoping to move away from that scenario.
And he feels like the pieces are in place to make that happen, with the growth in popularity in golf during the pandemic, and the status of the Southwest Florida landscape in particular, plus the quality of the field this week, with dozens of major champions, many of whom came directly from last week's Masters, where they had won it previously.
"It's probably never been better in Naples," he said. "I think this tour, the momentum is really good."
Erensen is trying to continue momentum with Eiger as well. He hired Andy Bush, a longtime Octagon executive, as a partner last summer. And Lesley Baker, another from Octagon, also has joined Eiger as senior vice president.
Eiger now has eight LPGA Tour events — many formerly managed by Octagon — plus the Chubb, it is running.
"A lot of it has come full circle," Erensen said.
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/