If you look closely at a Mesquite calendar of events for September and October you may notice a distinct absence of an event that has been a staple since 1997. The RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship (WLDC) will not be held in Mesquite this fall but rather at the Winstar World Casino and Resort located on the Texas Oklahoma border.
The ParaLong Drive also scheduled for the October timeframe has been cancelled.
Just don’t blame the move on the City or the local casinos.
Art Sellinger, CEO of the Long Drivers of America (LDA) announced in an email in December 2014 that “the 2014 WLDC marked the end of the RE/MAX title sponsorship of our marquee event. That sponsorship spanned two decades and elevated long drive to unprecedented success and recognition, both here and abroad.”
No explanation from either RE/MAX or LDA was given for the cancellation.
Sellinger was still looking for a major sponsor for his annual event as late as May 2015 when he said in another email “Long Drivers of America and the Golf Channel continue to work diligently to secure a title sponsor for the 2015 World Long Drive Championship.”
Without the corporate backing Sellinger had difficulty continuing the championship that drew golfers from around the world.
Mesquite City Manager Andy Barton confirmed to the MLN that the loss of the WLDC’s major sponsor also caused Sellinger and the LDA to default on their contract with the City and the casinos. Thus, the cancellation of the annual event in Mesquite.
The City gave $50,000 to Sellinger in 2014 with Mesquite Gaming and Eureka adding complimentary rooms and other donations to the LDA and golfers.
Barton also said that the ParaLong Drive organizers and the City were unable to reach an agreement for the event and thus it was cancelled. The City had budgeted $15,000 this year in support of it.
The WLDC in Mesquite was almost cancelled in 2012 when a dispute arose between the LDA and the two local hotel casinos. Both the Eureka and Mesquite Gaming asked Sellinger to move tournament play from its October timeframe to August. The gaming companies said they were losing too much guest revenue by scheduling the WLDC during a prime visitor month.
August was a better fit for them and the City they said because it was an off month for visitors and the tournament could help improve the number of people coming to town.
Andre Carrier, Chief Operating Officer for Eureka Casino Hotel Resort said in October 2012 “Under the contract between the LDA organization and the Mesquite Resort Association 900 to 1,000 hotel rooms were ‘comped’ (given free of charge) to the promoter by the MRA. The Eureka alone was required to comp 160 rooms to the LDA promoter plus provide a free poker tournament. The rest of the rooms were the responsibility of Mesquite Gaming.”
Sellinger balked at moving the competition saying it was too hot for the players and spectators in August.
A compromise of sorts was reached between the LDA, the City and the casino hotels in November 2012. The City increased its annual funding for the event from $40,000 to $50,000 and beginning in 2013 the majority of competitions were scheduled for September. However, the Men’s Open Division, the most popular with the richest purse at $250,000, was held Oct. 30 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway instead of the Mesquite Sports and Event Center.
It also marked the first time the event was televised live on the Golf Channel. Previously, the championship was a delay telecast on Christmas Day.
In 2014, the Men’s Open Division finals were held at the Paiute golf course located north of Las Vegas with the rest of the division competitions still held in Mesquite.
While the LDA hoped to increase attendance at the Open Championships by moving them to the Las Vegas area, it appears that never panned out based on the low number of spectators.
“The 2015 World Long Drive Championship will take place Oct. 14-21 at WinStar World Casino and Resort, located north of Dallas in Thackerville, Okla.,” Sellinger announced in an email Aug. 6.
LDA is headquartered in Roanoke, Texas.
The Golf Channel will provide live coverage of the 2015 World Long Drive Championship airing the semifinals on Tuesday, Oct. 20 and the championship finals on Wednesday, Oct. 21, both in primetime.