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BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Global company called on to help sell, manage longest-running continuous event on tour

Since 1972, Tournament Golf Foundation has owned and handled all operations for Portland's annual LPGA tournament. Now, TGF has signed on some help.

IMG, a global sports, events and talent management company headquartered in New York City, has been hired as a contractor to assist in sales and marketing, says Tom Maletis, chairman of the board and president of TGF.

"We feel it's the best company to meet our needs," Maletis says. "IMG had a very good reputation. I'm very optimistic about the effect our agreement with them will bring to the tournament."

Now called the Cambia Portland Classic, it is the longest-running continuous event on the LPGA Tour. This year's tourney is Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club, with the purse set at $1.3 million. Stacy Lewis is defending champion.MALETIS

Attendance has fallen off in recent years, as have proceeds. Maletis said the tournament was "close to breaking even" in 2017. So TGF, a local group with about 60 members, decided to enlist a global entity to promote and sell its product.

IMG manages 20-some sanctioned tournaments throughout the world, including 13 of the 34 events on the LPGA calendar. Among them are two majors on the LPGA Tour — the U.S. Women's Open and the ANA Inspiration — as well as the PGA Honda Classic and the World Golf Championships in Shanghai.

"We've gotten a bit selective with the markets we work," says Ed McEnroe, IMG's senior vice president for golf events. "Portland interested us because of TGF. They're in it for the right reasons — to grow the game of golf, to introduce new people to the sport and to impact the community. The most successful tournaments on any tour start with an engaged local market and tour sponsor. Portland has those things."

McEnroe says IMG wants to maintain and enhance TGF's local ties and build on it with global support.

"TGF has done a good job, but there is more local support out there, whether from corporate sponsorship or just community engagement and equity," he says. "We'll use an aggressive campaign to engage new partnerships."

Maletis says 10 years ago, 32 of the 37 LPGA events were managed by local groups such as TGF.

"Over the years, with costs going up with television, course rental, purses and infrastructure, only two of the 34 events are left with that model," Maletis says. "About 30 have gone to IMG, Octagon or other professionally managed companies. We're one of the last to make the move, because we've been one of the strongest.

"We've always concentrated a lot on local sponsors. We could really only reach out to the Portland metro area, the state and the Northwest. Now we'll be taking it to the next level. IMG's huge sponsor base worldwide and the tournament activation things they can bring from past tournament experiences will increase our revenue opportunities.

"For us to continue another 47 years — and that's the goal — we have to have the sales base to accommodate the increased prices we have had. It will be good for the longevity of the tournament."

Cambia has signed a three-year contract to serve as title sponsor through 2020. IMG will seek secondary sponsorship and other partnerships that will "help us build new levels of equity in the market," McEnroe says.

Columbia Edgewater is contracted just for this year, but Maletis says, "we're in the process of signing a longer agreement."

TGF operated with a full-time staff of seven employees. IMG has kept five of them on staff, and will add considerably to that.

McEnroe said the hiring of a new Cambia Portland Classic executive director — "a person based in the Portland market" — will be announced in a couple of weeks.

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@kerryeggers

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