There’s very little that we know for sure about the negotiations to either keep Viking Range Corp. as the title sponsor of the Viking Classic, or to find a new one.
What is certain is that Randy Watkins, tournament director, and his team will not resume talks with anybody until after the tournament is over. The Viking tees off July 11 with the pre-tourney events; the first round starts July 14.
Watkins told Magnolia Marketplace Wednesday morning that the PGA Tour has given him a soft deadline of late August to reach a deal with a title sponsor. How rigid that deadline is unclear, even to Watkins.
“I don’t know because I’ve never pushed it,” he said. “I know we’re aiming at it.”
The Tour will release its full 2012 schedule in November, so it would seem having the title sponsor on board by then would be imperative.
As for who that company is, Watkins offered precious few hints. To go with Viking, the companies Watkins has had negotiations with are household names, he said, and at least some are based in Mississippi. “All I can say is we’re working with (Viking) and others who have expressed interest. I don’t know if it’s unlikely (that Viking will not re-up), but there’s just nothing to be said one way or the other right now.”
This is Viking’s fifth year as the title sponsor. Southern Farm Bureau flew its flag before that; and prior to that, the old Deposit Guaranty bank had its name on the door. Watkins said the total cost — including cash and personnel costs — associated with the title sponsorship is “close to a $1 million.”
The Viking tees off a full two months earlier than it has in recent years. That’s good, Watkins said, because it guarantees all four rounds will be broadcast live by the Golf Channel, and it assures the tournament will be a part of the FedEx Cup.
But the earlier date also constricts by about 100 days the negotiating window Watkins had with potential sponsors. “It would have been nice to have that extra time, but the TV exposure and the FedEx Cup make up for that,” he said.