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Professional golf legacy will live on at Akron’s Firestone Country Club: Gordon Knapp (Opinion)

August 1, 2018 GMT

Professional golf legacy will live on at Akron’s Firestone Country Club: Gordon Knapp (Opinion)

AKRON, Ohio -- This year we come together to celebrate 65 years of professional golf at historic Firestone Country Club. Dating back to 1954, some of the world’s greatest golfers have made an annual visit to Akron for an unrivaled showcase of the sport and this community. Since 2006, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has continued that tradition, highlighted by memorable performances from big names like Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.

And while this year will be the 13th and final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational event here in Akron, it won’t be the end of world-class golf at Firestone Country Club.

Professional golf’s history in this region has featured a variety of events and formats that positively impacted this community for decades before the World Golf Championships first came to town. From exhibition matches to senior events, the American Golf Classic and the World Series of Golf, Firestone Country Club has a storied heritage that rivals many of the top venues in the sport.

This evolution has fostered a passionate base of local fans who understand and appreciate the game and its greats. I’ve seen you reward great shots with deserved applause and root for players of all skill levels and backgrounds. It’s no surprise that Firestone Country Club is one of the most popular, player-friendly stops on the golfing calendar, and I’m confident that the end of the WGC will not extinguish this enthusiasm.

Of course, professional golf in Akron is about more than just golf. This year we also celebrate a legacy of charitable giving and positive impact on a place we all call home. One of my favorite moments each year is during the Northern Ohio Golf Charities Luncheon when we announce the more than $1 million in charitable donations raised by the tournament. The wide smiles and tears of joy are always a testament to you -- the committed fans and dedicated businesses in this community. Your support is what drives these contributions every year, and it’s what will help ensure these contributions continue after the WGC departs.

When a new direction was charted for the WGC, Bridgestone was determined to do what we could to extend golf’s legacy in Akron because we know firsthand how special this community is. Our roots run deep in Northeast Ohio, too, underscored by our more than 1,300 employees in the region and the many milestones our company also is celebrating this year.

The Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. was “born” in Akron Aug. 3, 1900, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of its merger with Bridgestone Corp. to form the largest tire and rubber company in the world. In addition, this year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., whose lasting contributions are visible throughout the region.

In 2019, a new chapter in Firestone Country Club’s proud history will begin when the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship brings true legends of the sport back to Akron in one of the five majors on the PGA Tour Champions schedule.

The event is a fitting tribute to our region’s golf lineage, boasting an international field that includes World Golf Hall of Famers, major champions, and past winners who’ve etched their name on a trophy in Akron.

They’re excited to return to Firestone, and together we can offer them a welcome that will make the new Bridgestone Senior Players just as impactful in this community as the WGC events before it.

I’ve personally witnessed the dedicated efforts of the 1,200 volunteers who give so generously of their time. I’ve seen the tireless drive of Don Padgett and his brilliant tournament staff, as well as the passion and pride displayed by the fans who line the ropes at Firestone Country Club every summer. To each of you, I offer my sincere thanks.

Bridgestone is proud to be part of the positive impact that professional golf has made on this community, and I hope you are, too. I encourage you to join me at Firestone Country Club this week – and for many summers to come. Together, we’ll ensure this longstanding tradition of world-class golf and chartable impact in Northeast Ohio doesn’t end anytime soon.

Gordon Knapp is CEO and president of Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas Inc., and a senior vice president and executive officer of Bridgestone Corp.

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