Turning Stone off US PGA Tour

Verona, New York (AP) November 2010

The only U.S. PGA Tour event on American Indian land, the Turning Stone Resort Championship, is off the tour after a four-year run.

Turning Stone, which was owned by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York and staged at Atunyote Golf Club since 2007, was seeking an unencumbered date during the U.S. PGA Tour regular season, but a mutually acceptable date did not become available.

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said the resort wanted a stand-alone date in either June, July or August, two weeks before or after a major.

“It’s a frustrating experience,” Halbritter said last week in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We did seek a better date, and one wasn’t available. We’re in a climate that doesn’t have as large a window as maybe Las Vegas or Florida or southern climates. For us, a date is important to be in a good, temperate zone.”

The inaugural Turning Stone in 2007 won by Steve Flesch was staged in September. The tournament was then moved to October for the ensuing two years and staged in August this year opposite the Bridgestone Invitational.

Halbritter, whose initial goal had been securing a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs, said Turning Stone accomplished what it had hoped to by simply hosting a U.S. PGA tournament, mostly because it brought worldwide exposure to Native Americans.

Turning Stone was part of the race for the FedEx Cup title this year after being part of the Fall Series since its inception. But the Fall Series offered a larger purse – Turning Stone’s was the largest at $6 million – and had a stronger field.

Halbritter said the resort would seek other sanctioned or independent events but would not elaborate. Atunyote has hosted a charity event for Notah Begay III since 2008. Begay, the only full-blooded Native American on the tour, uses the proceeds from the NB3 Challenge to help improve the health of Native American children, and Halbritter said Atunyote would remain the host.

Last year, Tiger Woods, Begay’s roommate at Stanford University, participated in the NB3 Challenge and this year U.S. LPGA greats Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa took part. The event has raised over $2 million since its inception.