When Kevin Streelman rolled in the final putt of the Tampa Bay Championship last year, almost immediately, a curious feeling hovered around the 18th green at the famed Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
Would the PGA Tour be back in Tampa Bay? Ever?
The 2013 event, Streelman's first win as a PGA pro, didn't have a full-time sponsor. EverBank stepped in to be a presenting sponsor at the eleventh hour. The tournament at Innisbrook has been going on for 25 years but the lack of a consistent sponsor was a problem for the PGA.
"There were rumors floating around that a couple of tournaments were willing to step in and take the date," NBC golf analyst Gary Koch said from the first tee box on Monday. "It would have been sad. It really would have been. We all need to thank Valspar."
Valspar, a leader in the commercial paint industry since 2007, saved the day - and the tournament. A few months ago, Valspar to serves as a title sponsor at Innisbrook through the 2016-17 PGA season. It's the kind of stability that professional golf in Tampa Bay desperately needed.
"This is going to be the most colorful golf tournament in the world," said Valspar CEO Gary Hendrickson. "We're going to make this a very special event."
Players rave about the Copperhead course. Many call it their favorite stop in Florida. Some say it's the best they play on tour.
"I never gave up hope," said Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Resorts, the company that owns Innisbrook. "The PGA really does love this particular tournament."
The tournament has been called the Tampa Bay Classic, Chrysler Championship, the PODS Championship, the Transitions Championship and Tampa Bay Championship.
The 2014 Valspar Championship tees off at Innisbrook March 10-16.