The LPGA said Thursday the 2009 Phoenix LPGA International tournament will be held at the Papago Golf Course in Phoenix after spending five years at the Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club near Gold Canyon.
The move follows an extensive renovation of the 46-year-old Papago course.
The Phoenix tournament, scheduled for March 26-29, also has a new presenting sponsor - Mirassou, a California winery. Previously it was sponsored by Safeway, but the grocery chain did not renew its sponsorship this year in a cost-cutting move.
The financial situation of the scenically located Superstition course also is in a state of flux as its developer, Lyle Anderson Cos. of Scottsdale, lost control of the property to the Bank of Scotland late last year.
That played a major role in the decision to move the tournament, said Mike Nichols, vice president of LPGA-sponsored events.
"Superstition Mountain as well as the East Valley have been great hosts for many years," he said. "But at the time that we had to make a commitment to a golf course, Superstition Mountain was not in a position where they could commit to hosting the tournament."
He declined to speculate on whether the tournament might some day return to Superstition Mountain, saying "we're focused now on making the 2009 event the best possible."
The prize money of $1.5 million this year will match last year's, and Nichols said he's hopeful attendance also will match last year's total of more than 100,000.
"Our goal is to not be in position of going backward," he said. "We're going to be in a location closer to downtown, and that may attract folks from other parts of Phoenix who weren't able to get out to Superstition Mountain."
Before moving to Gold Canyon, the tournament was held at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix.
The four-day, 72-hole event has been part of the LPGA tour since 1980, and tour officials were keen to keep the contest in the Phoenix metro area.
"The Phoenix event has long been one of the most popular and storied stops on the LPGA tour," LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, said in a written statement. "This March we will add an exciting new chapter in the event's history when our players step foot on this beautifully renovated city-owned course."
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he was pleased with the move to Papago, saying "we are excited to partner with the LPGA and TGF (Tournament Golf Foundation) to ensure this important event stays in Phoenix."
But economic development officials in the East Valley expressed disappointment, saying the Superstition Mountain course was an ideal location. "It's their loss," said Rayna Palmer, chief executive of the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce, referring to the LPGA. "Superstition Mountain was a wonderful venue, and the people enjoyed it. But from their perspective I do understand the East Valley can't compete for restaurants and resorts, and that's why they moved further in."
Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, an economic development group, said the East Valley will lose valuable national exposure created by views of the Superstitions during the televising of the tournament.
But he also said he wasn't surprised, citing logistics problems of getting people to and from the tournament with only one major road - U.S. 60 - available.
"That was a problem they had to correct," he said.
The $5.8 million restoration of the Papago course involved a partnership between Phoenix and the Arizona Golf Foundation. All of the greens, tees, fairways and rough were re-turfed; all of the bunkers were restored; and some holes were lengthened to give the course championship yardage, the LPGA said.
The upgrade was designed by Billy Fuller, course architect and former superintendent of the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
The course re-opened to the public in December.