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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 14, 2006

84 Lumber to pull out of pro golf

 •  Kim has made Korean event his own over five decades

By Alan Robinson
Associated Press

Michelle Wie worked on her putting stroke with coach David Leadbetter yesterday.

GENE J. PUSKAR | Associated Press

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FARMINGTON, Pa. Stuck in the oft-ignored fall portion of the PGA Tour, the 84 Lumber Classic tried to make a name for itself by spending. And spending. And spending.

Now that money-tossing is about to end as the lumber company pulls out of pro golf after laying out tens of millions of dollars to land and run a tournament that's moving to a prime tour date next June.

The 84 Lumber Classic that starts today at the Nemacolin Woodlands resort's Mystic Rock course will be the fourth and last, replaced next year by the St. Paul Travelers Championship in Hartford, Conn.

With 84 Lumber packing its money bags and saying goodbye, the Pittsburgh area must once again be content with seeing only occasional glimpses of top-tier pro golf. There is no tournament with PGA Tour golfers scheduled in the region beyond next year's U.S. Open at Oakmont.

It's obvious who will be the poorer for 84 Lumber's pullout: the golfers who welcomed coming to rural Pennsylvania each September to be lavished with the kind of Hollywood star treatment that even the big names rarely receive elsewhere.

"Not having the tournament here anymore is sad," said John Daly, the unofficial tournament host whose endorsement deal with 84 is worth nearly $1 million per year.

Daly is so close to 84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy that he calls him "Dad," and he isn't the only golfer with ties to Hardy, who built the 7,511-yard Mystic Rock course about 10 years ago with the idea of someday playing host to a PGA Tour event.

Honolulu teenager Michelle Wie, playing against the men again this week with a sponsor's exemption, regularly visits Nemacolin Woodlands and once had Thanksgiving dinner there with Hardy and daughter Maggie Hardy Magerko, the lumber company's top executive.

Pat Perez, set to play in his fourth 84 Lumber Classic, said many of the PGA Tour players are very upset that the tournament will no longer be held.

No wonder, as Hardy's spending habits quickly became legendary among the golfers. He gave expensive presents to some of the top players and their families several times a year, chartered a private jet to fly them to a European tournament two years ago and built a $66 million on-course lodge with full butler service for them.

Hardy also poured millions of dollars into near-annual redesigns of Mystic Rock to make it tougher after a mostly no-name field shot numerous rounds in the mid-to-low 60s in 2003.

All that spending added up to annual losses for the tournament despite adequate attendance. And when 84 Lumber began questioning whether it was worth an estimated $100 million to run a summertime tournament for the next six years, the PGA Tour awarded 84 Lumber's 2007 dates to Hartford without giving any warning beforehand.