San Diego Open name is back for 2010


By Lee Schoenbart


“Everything old is new again” has multiple meanings this new year of the new decade, and it applies to The Century Club, which has redubbed its 58th annual golf tournament the San Diego Open.

The Jan. 25-31 event at Torrey Pines Golf Course was to be called the Century Club Invitational of San Diego until its board quite recently decided that the attention should focus on the community at-large and not the organization.

Called the Buick Open for 20 years until the automaker backed out in the face of General Motors’ financial challenges, the tournament sponsors at this point are going into this year’s event without corporate backing. PGA officials have said that there’s still a chance a sponsor may sign on for the tournament, which will lack a bit of star quality sans Tiger Woods.

“We just made a decision to shorten it because of the time frame we have to make it a little easier to roll off the tongue for people to talk about our tournament,” said Tom Wilson, executive director of the Century Club. “We’re going to go retro and go back to calling it the San Diego Open.

“It was a way to do one of the things that is in our mission statement, which is to promote San Diego on a national basis,” he explained. “We want to give San Diego the biggest bang for the buck and the Century Club of San Diego Invitational was put in place when we didn’t have a sponsor, but the tour had to put a name in that slot for that tournament week.”

He said they had initially decided on a name that promoted both the region and the organization that actually manages and runs the tournament.

Wilson, now in his 18th year with the club and the tournament’s director, noted that the San Diego Open dates back to 1952.

“This is going to be the 58th PGA tournament here in San Diego and the 48th year the Century Club has been involved with it,” he said.

Wilson referred to the club’s members as “the marketing arm of the tournament.”

He said, “Whatever we have to offer to potential clients/customers/patrons/

sponsors, whatever you want to call them, they (the members) are the ones that go out and do the majority of the selling for the tournament so that we can generate funds to where our net proceeds end up going to charity.”

Two of those philanthropic endeavors are the club’s SOS Program and Chip-In for Charity.

“Those are two programs that directly impact high schools, middle schools and 501(c)(3) charities,” Wilson said.

Both programs work on similar premises. For SOS programs, students sell a half-price ticket for $17 and get to keep $15. Wilson said the schools have sold $500,000 to $600,000.

“It’s a great way to have the community support their schools and know that the vast majority of the funds are going back to the schools,” he said.

“Charities that participate in that program have sold somewhere between $100,000 to $200,000 worth of tickets.”

The club’s greatest success also belongs to the city- and county-based charities.

“We’re sneaking up on being involved with this tournament for 50 years, and during that time frame, we’ve been able to generate almost $20 million to local charities, which is probably the most heart-felt success that we have,” Wilson stated.

“Of course, we’ve been able to crown several champions that are some of the best players in the world over the years, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson and, of course, Tiger Woods.”

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For information on the Century Club, go to