Champions Tour returns to Richmond

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RICHMOND - Not too long ago, there were no top level professional golf events held in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The home of legends like Sam Snead, Chandler Harper and Curtis Strange was left to host developmental tour events. That has changed over the past few years with the LPGA's Kingsmill Championship returning to Williamsburg, and Tiger Woods temporarily moving his Quicken Loans National to the Robert Trent Jones course in Gainesville. Thursday, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem added to that list and announced that the Champions Tour is coming to the James River Course at the Country Club of Virginia starting in 2016.

"I just wish I was going to be a part of it" said Strange, winner of 2 U.S. Open titles. "I won't be playing, but it's good to see a big event back in your home state."

Dominion Charities is the sponsor of the Dominion Charity Classic, which will be a part of the Charles Schwab Cup, a playoff-type championship similar to the season ending FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour. Finchem, a University of Richmond grad, estimated the event would be televised to 80 million people in over 200 countries, giving the Richmond area another marquee event.

"If you're running economic development in the Richmond metropolitan area or one of the surrounding counties, you're delighted" Finchem said. "The profile of this part of the state of Virginia is going to get more recognition and a brand-building exercise."

The initial weekend will run from October 31-November 3 in 2016, prompting some concern about weather and the condition of the course that late in the fall. But the format of the new Schwab Cup and this event's spot on the schedule likely guarantees that the top 54 players on the Champions Tour money list each year will be entered.

"Some people might say 'Ahh, they're 50! They can't play'" Strange said. "Let me tell you something: they really play. They haven't lost much of a step."

Strange was joined at the announcement by fellow Virginia golfing greats Bobby Wadkins and Robert Wrenn, each of whom have played several events on CCV's River course in their formative years. Even Finchem remembered playing in the springtime Member-Guest event here during his undergrad days at U of R.

"I think I made $50" Finchem said. "It might have been $20, but it felt like $50 to me".

"It's fantastic" Wadkins said. "It's been way too long. We should have been here a long time ago. Everyone who plays golf and even those who don't will be so surprised and happy with the job we put on.

Wadkins was a regular on the PGA Tour the last time the Champions Tour was played in the Richmond area. Back then, it was known as the Senior PGA Tour and was played at Hermitage Country Club until 1989. With this event, Virginia will now have hosted stops on the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour all within the last two years, with Kingsmill and CCV hosting regular stops for the next few years.

The tournament will also benefit area veterans through Dominion Charities. A specific charitable benefactor will be announced sometime around Veteran's Day later this fall. The event is expected to bring approximately 50,000 fans over the course of the week-long event.