MILWAUKEE -- Baseball, apple pie and ... Freddie Couples?
If a plan by the Milwaukee Brewers comes to fruition, the national pastime and a centuries-old game invented in Scotland will be joined at the (artificial) hip.
The Brewers are trying to bring a Champions Tour event to Milwaukee to replace the defunct U.S. Bank Championship, a staple on the PGA Tour for 42 years, according to an industry source with knowledge of the team's plan.
If the Brewers can secure a title sponsor in the coming weeks, the inaugural tournament would be held in 2011 at the Brown Deer Park Golf Course.
Furthermore, the team would organize, run and promote the tournament, according to the source. It would be the first such partnership between the PGA Tour and a major professional sports franchise.
Brewers officials declined to comment Friday, but the team already has had encouraging talks with Champions Tour officials.
"We're happy to confirm the Brewers organization has approached us with their desire to bring golf back to Milwaukee," said Steve Horner, vice president of development for the PGA Tour. "The Tour has a long history in Milwaukee. The possibility of going back is intriguing and one that we would support."
Loren Roberts, the 2009 Charles Schwab Cup winner on the Champions Tour and a two-time winner of the old Greater Milwaukee Open at Brown Deer Park, was incredulous when reached by phone Friday.
"Are you kidding me? A major-league baseball team wants to run a Champions Tour event?" Roberts said. "I think it would be awesome. Do you know how many people we'd get out for a pro-am if we got some of the Brewers playing?"
But why this? Why now? And why bring the over-50 Champions Tour to Milwaukee instead of a regular PGA Tour event? As one wag noted in a comment Friday on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's website, shouldn't the Brewers be trying to bring more quality starting pitching to Milwaukee instead of a golf tournament?
All good questions. But in many ways, a partnership between the Brewers and the Champions Tour makes a lot of sense.
Tournaments on all three tours sanctioned by the PGA Tour are structured as non-profit organizations, with net proceeds benefiting local charities. The event run by the Brewers would benefit the Brewers Community Foundation, Inc.
From a financial standpoint, the Champions Tour is more viable than the PGA Tour. Title sponsorship of PGA Tour events costs about $7 million a year, while Champions Tour events cost less than half that amount.
The Milwaukee market apparently no longer can support a PGA Tour event. If it could, a sponsor would have stepped forward to replace U.S. Bank after the bank declined to exercise its three-year option last year, essentially killing the tournament.
Not even Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, who had an ambitious plan to keep the PGA Tour in Wisconsin, have been able to secure a title sponsor.
So if the Brewers, with their corporate connections and marketing arm, can't find a title sponsor for a Champions Tour event -- and that's still a big if -- then we can assume professional golf just doesn't work in this market.
Beyond that, the Brewers apparently view a professional golf tournament as a source of civic pride and have the resources to pull it off.
The team could promote the tournament at home games. It could sell tickets at Miller Park. It could run a massive media campaign on its radio and TV broadcasts at no cost; such a campaign would cost another promoter millions. The title sponsor would get advertising and other perks at Miller Park.
And, as Roberts mentioned, how cool would it be to have Robin Yount, Hank Aaron, Paul Molitor and current Brewers play in the pro-am?
Brown Deer Park would be the perfect venue. It's tournament-ready, having played host to a PGA Tour event from 1994 to 2009. At 6,759 yards it was the shortest course on the regular tour, but it would be an average-length course on the Champions Tour. One would think a contract with Milwaukee County would be easy to work out.
"We never had any desire to leave Milwaukee," Horner said. "That was never our intent. The financial situation created a situation where we could not go forward. We like Milwaukee."
Before you get pumped up about the idea of Couples, Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer, Mark O'Meara and Nick Price strolling the fairways at Brown Deer Park, keep in mind that this is not a done deal. The Brewers' search for a title sponsor could come up empty.
But at least they're up there hacking.