Kathryn Crosby's decision to withdraw her late husband's name from the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am golf tournament was made in part because a proposal to bring in AT&T as a corporate sponsor meant the family would lose its storied control over the event, sources said yesterday.
According to one official close to the event, the Monterey Peninsula Golf Foundation's executive committee, which runs the tournament, and the PGA agreed last week to accept AT&T's estimated $1 million offer of sponsorship and rename the tournament the AT&T Bing Crosby National Pro-Am.
"It's a classic case of the family losing the grasp of the tournament," an official close to the event said.
Bing Crosby's widow decided Monday to cut all ties with the tournament started by her late husband in 1937 that brought together golfing greats and celebrities. She said "commercialization" of the event was the reason.
Yesterday, sources also said there was a feeling that the tournament, which raises about $1 million for charity, was not keeping up with the progress of the rest of the PGA Tour. There was reported dissatisfaction among CBS officials over decreasing sales for television air time and among PGA officials and golfers with the family's "iron-fisted" rule of the tournament.
"It's known in golf that many were unhappy with the tournament," a source said. "The wrong people were there . . . It was an act that was wearing thin on the network, the golfers, everybody. Corporate sponsorship was needed and everybody saw a chance to get something done."
Pro-am golf tournaments increasingly have turned to corporate sponsorship to maintain purse money, attract good fields and help underwrite television production costs.
Jim Harrington, vice president of program administration for CBS Sports, would not comment on whether sales were down except to say, "We would financially welcome the support of a major advertiser like AT&T. From a financial standpoint it would enhance the value of the tournament, but it's unfortunate it has to be done at the expense of the Crosbys' involvement."
AT&T approached the Monterey Peninsula Golf Foundation during the most recent Crosby tournament and expressed interest in sponsorship, said Harry Holmes, president of the foundation at the time.
Holmes, who resigned as president last week, denied charges reported yesterday that he had received a finder's fee from AT&T. A source close to Kathryn Crosby had said Monday that she believed a member of the committee had received between $50,000 and $150,000 from the company in a "behind the scenes" deal.
Several meetings were held in vain to convince the family to accept AT&T sponsorship.