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Wells Fargo should feel no shame for sponsoring the PGA Tour's Quail Hollow Championship

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Tiger Woods at Quail Hollow Country Club
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Wells Fargo should stamp its name all over the Quail Hollow Championship. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods makes his first PGA Tour appearance since the Masters among a star-studded field at the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship -- the "sixth major," as some call it. And the tournament doesn't even have a title sponsor.

How many PGA Tour sponsors would like their names stamped on an event that not only hosts the Tiger circus every year but will mark his first stop outside the control of Augusta National?

Instead, for the second year in a row, the Charlotte, N.C. tour event will be known only as the Quail Hollow Championship, because Wells Fargo, which swallowed Wachovia last year, doesn't want to face scrutiny for sponsoring a golf tournament while it repays government bailout funds.

Quail Hollow Country Club isn't even a public golf course. It benefits virtually none as the title sponsor -– other than, perhaps, that the club may raise future initiation fees by a few grand for the prestige.

The situation is bad for Wells Fargo. It's bad for the tour, and it's bad for us.

We all know the environment for corporations that accepted bailout money in 2009 as Wall Street fell off a cliff: No retreat, sponsorship or corporate event goes without scrutiny.

Wells Fargo decided to leave its name off the golf event, though it remains under contract with the PGA Tour through 2014. Essentially, the bank pays the $7 million tab for the event, but it's afraid to actively promote itself during the week.

The PGA Tour shouldn't let this happen. Do you think Wells Fargo will even consider renewing its contract in 2014 if it remains afraid to reap benefits?

Its involvement in the tournament -- one of the biggest outside the majors and FedEx Cup -- will occur behind the scenes. The tournament Web site mentions Wells Fargo near the bottom of its home page, but you wouldn't see it unless you were searching.

What taxpayer or shareholder would be happy that the bank is cutting a check and receiving zero benefit? The tournament also raises money for Charlotte's Teach for America program -- $11 million in the past seven years. Wells Fargo doesn't want its name attached to that?

I thought we all wanted our "too big to fail" banks to smarten up? There's nothing smart about essentially serving as a ghost benefactor for this event.

It's not bad for business when banks sponsors golf events. They do it because someone in marketing calculated that it makes sense to the bottom line, no matter if the bank received government cash. Banks and auto companies especially must keep their names prominent to build trust with the brand.

By now, I think most Americans realize spending money makes the capitalist world go 'round and that companies take retreats and make advertising deals because it's good business sense. Besides, when companies don't travel, it hurts hotels and airline industries. When companies don't advertise, it hurts the media markets. Their spending should be encouraged -– not just for golf's sake, but for the sake of the world economy.

The environment, by now, should have shifted. If U.S. taxpayers are so concerned with receiving a return on their bailout money, they should stand behind Wells Fargo for placing its name on a golf tournament. And the bank shouldn't be ashamed to sponsor a golf event in the city of its headquarters.

It provides good community outreach, and the title sponsor can conduct business at an event like this. People with money attend golf tournaments, so we should want Wells Fargo execs to pump them full of fine wine and mini-burgers until they strike a deal off the 16th green.

That's just the American way of doing business.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

 
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