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THE INTERNATIONAL INTO THE ROUGH The International wasn't just about golf. Deals were made, clients courted, networks nurtured. Its demise leaves big shoes to fill.

Denver Post Staff Writer, February 08, 2007

By Julie Dunn

Colorado lost one of its major annual corporate-networking events Wednesday when The International golf tournament was canceled.

Tournament officials confirmed Wednesday that the annual tournament has been shelved because it was unable to secure a title sponsor.

The International, held at the Castle Pines Golf Club in Castle Rock since 1986, has been without a title sponsor since 2004, when Qwest declined to renew its five-year contract.

Other major local sponsors included Ciber, First Data, Coors Brewing Co., CH2M Hill and Great-West Healthcare. Several expressed dismay Wednesday at the event's demise.

"It has been very beneficial for us in terms of building relationships with our brokers," said Loren Finkelstein, manager of public relations at Great-West Healthcare, which had sponsored the tournament since 2003. "But it's a business decision that obviously doesn't involve us."

Colorado lost another major sporting event this month when the Champ Car World Series removed the Grand Prix of Denver from its schedule. The lack of a title sponsor - Centennial-based Centrix withdrew last year after business problems - was cited as a factor.

Nationally, corporate sponsorship spending is projected to grow by 11.7 percent this year to $14.93 billion, with sports sponsorship accounting for $9.9 billion of that, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report.

It's rare when a major golf tournament like The International is unable to secure a title sponsor, said William Chipps, editor of a Chicago-based newsletter that tracks corporate sponsorships.

"It doesn't really happen all that often," he said. "Golf remains a popular marketing platform for many corporations."

Don Hinchey, vice president of communications at the Bonham Group, a Greenwood Village sports-marketing firm, said the explosion in the number of area minor-league sports teams - such as the new Rocky Mountain Rage hockey team and the Denver Outlaws lacrosse team - could be a contributing factor.

"There are more options all around for companies to spend their sports and entertainment dollars on," he said.

Based on comparable events, Hinchey estimated that The International was seeking $5 million to $8 million from a title sponsor.

"Sponsors are becoming increasingly more particular on what they get for their investments," said Hinchey, "and they're scrutinizing those investments more closely."

Local tourism officials also lamented the loss of the golf tournament, which attracted more than 100,000 spectators annually.

"Area hotels and resorts would fill up with players, sponsors and visiting media, so that generated a tremendous amount of direct impact," said Richard Scharf, president of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. "But that paled in comparison to the millions of dollars of media exposure it generated around the world."

Staff writer Julie Dunn can be reached at 303-954-1592 or