Stanford name removed from PGA stop in Memphis

March 18, 2009

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The PGA Tour's stop in Memphis will be known as the St. Jude Classic for 2009, dropping its reference to the Stanford Financial Group, which is under investigation.

Tournament officials announced the name change Thursday. The move had been expected since federal authorities began investigating Stanford for investment and securities fraud.

The event, which benefits St. Jude's Children Hospital, had been called the Stanford St. Jude Championship the past two years following 21 years with FedEx as the tournament's title sponsor.

"The PGA TOUR has been part of the fabric of the Memphis sports scene since 1958 and we look forward to returning in June," Rick George, the PGA Tour's chief of operations, said in a statement.

Justin Leonard will defend his title at the TPC at Southwind course June 10-14, a week before the U.S. Open.

Tournament director Phil Cannon would not discuss specifics of efforts to replace Stanford as a title sponsor except to say FedEx, which sponsors the PGA Tour's season-long points competition, remains a local presenting supporter of the event.

"Losing the title sponsor is definitely a major hit, but we feel like we have got strong community support here and have produced successful events for 51 years and raised almost $25 million for St. Jude," Cannon said.

"So while our work is cut out for us, we think we'll have another successful event this year."

The biggest challenges with approximately 80 days remaining before the tournament is finding a company to buy up the space Stanford had reserved at the 18th green and at that week's pro-am. Logos must be changed along with signs, advertising and even volunteer uniforms.

Cannon said tournament officials had been working through scenarios and contingencies for the past month since news broke of the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation into the troubled companies owned by Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford.

"It definitely is going to mean some long days, long weeks," Cannon said.

Helping the event are its ties to St. Jude, which Cannon noted was the patron saint of lost causes. The hospital has been the Memphis PGA event's sole beneficiary since 1970.

"In the PGA TOUR, we have such a supporter and we are immensely pleased to continue this relationship as we strive for the day when no child will die in the dawn of life," David L. McKee, chief operating officer and interim CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude, said in a statement.