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Symetra Tour Forsyth Classic 27 06.17.18.JPG (copy)

This 2018 file photo shows a golfer during the third round of the Symetra Tour Forsyth Classic at the Hickory Point Golf Club. The tour announced Friday that 2019 will be the final year of the Decatur event.

DECATUR — The 35th annual Symetra Tour event held in Decatur will likely be the final one.

The Symetra Tour's release of its 2019 schedule on Friday announced that this year's Forsyth Classic presented by the Decatur Parks District on June 14-16 will be the "curtain call for an event that has hosted 'Road to the LPGA' professionals for 35 of the Tour's 39 years of existence."

Tournament director Cindy Deadrick Wolfer said she began talking to the Symetra Tour — the developmental tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) — about the future of the tournament in 2017.

"We decided at that point we would work toward trying to find new funding to continue the tour, or make the 35th in 2019 the last hurrah," Deadrick Wolfer said. "For about a year and a half, a group of people have been working to gain the funding to sustain it past 2019, but we don't have it."

A volunteer since the beginning of the event and the tournament director since 2010, Deadrick Wolfer said losing the event was a "blow to the stomach."

"I personally love the tournament," she said. "I love what it's brought to the community — a diverse group of people who interact with people of the community for a week and an event that brings economic impact — and I loved that we had a pro sports tour with a stop in Decatur.

"But if we don’t have people in the community to support it, it can’t go on."

Deadrick Wolfer said the Symetra Tour assured her they'd work with her to make the final event memorable, which the Symetra Tour confirmed.

“I’ve been adamant that when the time came for Decatur to bid farewell that we do it in a proactive way so that we can celebrate the community’s contribution to the growth of this Tour,” said Mike Nichols, the chief business officer of the Symetra Tour.

“The last thing I wanted to do was have it end with a press release in the middle of winter," he continued. "In the near future, we will be making announcements about some special activities to make this an unforgettable week saying not only goodbye, but thank you.”

Deadrick Wolfer said the group was still working to find sponsors, and could still find its way back to the tour if enough financial backing was found.

The tournament has an annual budget of $225,000, with the $135,000 purse — one of the lowest on tour — the bulk of the expense. Deadrick Wolfer said for the tournament to continue, the group would need another $50,000 to $75,000. She said, ideally, a title sponsor would take over the purse and the current group of sponsors would provide the rest.

"We've never had one company pay the whole purse, but that's rare. Most stops have one entity that pays the purse and is the title sponsor," Deadrick Wolfer said. "That's obviously a significant amount, but that's what we'd like to see if this was going to continue."

In May 2018, citing budgetary constraints, the Decatur City Council declined to renew a $20,000 financial commitment to the tournament with a 3-3 vote.

Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said Friday she was unaware of the decision to end the tour's Decatur stop until she was contacted by the Herald & Review. Speaking on last year's decision, Moore Wolfe said the council had to take a serious look at its spending due to the city's financial situation. She did not believe Friday's news was related to the council's decision.

"(The event has) been good for the community, and it's always sad when you see something go," she said.

Even before the Decatur vote, the Forsyth Village Board increased its funding from $70,000 to $90,000 for 2018. Forsyth officials also promised $100,000 for this year's 35th anniversary of the event.

Decatur Park District Executive Director Bill Clevenger has said preparing for the event each year and other costs amount to an in-kind donation between $15,000 and $20,000 from the park district.

Organizers decided to drop "Decatur" from the title and rename the event the Forsyth Classic after city officials did not guarantee the sponsorship payment.

The city of Decatur had long supported the event financially, citing the benefit of so many out-of-town visitors spending money on gas, food, hotels and other purchases.

The tournament has featured numerous players who went on to LPGA fame, including all-time great Lorena Ochoa, who won her first event as a professional at the 2002 Decatur event.

Reporter Ryan Voyles contributed to this story. 


Photos from the 2018 third round of the Forsyth Classic

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Contact Justin Conn at (217) 421-7971. Follow him on Twitter: @jconnHR

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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