Apparently the Nationwide Tour event held the past four years at Whirlwind Golf Club near Chandler will be played in 2005, with a change in name pending.
The PGA Tour released its Nationwide schedule last week, and the former Gila River Classic was replaced on the schedule by the Arizona Desert Championship on Oct. 3-9. The site was listed as Phoenix, followed by the words "to be determined."
Tony Sokolowski, the executive director of the sponsoring Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix, said Arizona Desert Championship may or may not be the new name of the tournament.
"It's not exact yet, but we know it will not be the Gila River Classic," said Sokolowski, referring to the former corporate sponsor, Gila River Resort and Casino, which did not re-sign after funding the tournament since 2001.
"The new name will probably have the new title sponsor's name in it, or it will be the Arizona Desert Championship presented by a corporate entity. We're just not sure yet."
Sokolowski said the venue also is not set in stone, although "It will probably be at Whirlwind."
"We have explored some other sites (in the East Valley), like Talking Stick and Grayhawk," Sokolowski said. "There really are not a lot of options, because most golf courses could not handle the tournament and would not be approved by the PGA Tour.
"Whirlwind we're familiar with; we know where everything is, we know where the volunteers go, and the setup is pretty good with the resort there. But it's not 100 percent that we will be back at Whirlwind."
Selection of a title sponsor is getting closer though, Sokolowski said. "I think we'll have something in the next month or so, hopefully before Christmas. And I think it's going to be good news. We do have some potential people in mind."
But Sokolowski was not sure whether there will be one big deal, like the Boys and Girls Clubs had with Gila River Resort and Casino, or a pool of sponsors,
like the FBR-Phoenix Open had during 2002 and ’03.
"We would not have told the (PGA) Tour to keep the dates for us if we didn't feel we could pull it off," Sokolowski said. "So one way or another, it's going to go."
Television, however, is another matter. There are 31 tournaments on the 2005 Nationwide schedule, but The Golf Channel will only televise 16 of them. Chances are, the Arizona Desert Championship will not be one of them.
"That has not been our priority," Sokolowski admitted. "Just keeping the tournament alive has been the focus. We'll worry about TV later."
The 2005 schedule includes events in 21 states and five countries — Panama, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States. Total prize money will be $15.6 million, with the Arizona Desert Championship purse listed as $475,000. The only tournament besides the Phoenix stop that needs to be worked out is the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship, which has a date but not a site.
It had been played on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama.