Bridgestone becomes title sponsor of World Golf Championships

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The International Federation of PGA Tours has announced that the Bridgestone brand will serve as the title sponsor of the World Golf Championships tournament at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. The tournament, currently titled the World Golf Championships NEC-Invitational, will become the Bridgestone Invitational in 2006. The agreement spans from 2006-2010.

“We are pleased to welcome the Bridgestone brand as an umbrella sponsor of the World Golf Championships and as title sponsor of the Bridgestone Invitational,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem on behalf of the International Federation of PGA Tours. “We look forward to a long-term relationship with the Bridgestone family of companies and a bright future for this championship.”

This sponsorship agreement ensures that the Bridgestone Invitational will remain at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio for the next five years. The 2006 Bridgestone Invitational will be held Aug. 22-27.

“We are honored to sponsor such a world-class tournament, especially since the Bridgestone Invitational will be played at the world-renowned Firestone Country Club,” said Mark A. Emkes, chairman and CEO, Bridgestone Americas Holding and Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire. “Our company has been part of the Akron community for more than a century, and to have the tournament played at Firestone is a wonderful connection with our heritage and to our future. We look forward to working with the International Federation of PGA Tours and the City of Akron to continue the great tradition of this tournament.”

Since 1984, the tournament at Firestone C.C. has donated more than $15 million to local charities in the Akron area. The Bridgestone Invitational is eager to continue this tradition of giving and will continue to provide meaningful support to local charities.

Bridgestone is the world’s largest manufacturer of tires and other rubber products. The company also manufactures a broad range of diversified products, which include industrial rubber and chemical products, and sporting goods. Bridgestone first began making golf balls in 1935 and has a long and distinguished history in the sport. After becoming the leading golf equipment supplier to the Japanese market, Bridgestone entered the U.S. market in 1983, marketing its products under the Precept brand.

Beginning this year, the company introduced the Bridgestone Golf brand to America as a premium Tour brand, with PGA Tour players Stuart Appleby, Nick Price, Shigeki Maruyama and Fred Couples representing the Bridgestone brand.

“This is a very exciting time for the Bridgestone family of companies,” said Shigeo Watanabe, chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Corporation. “We’re thrilled to be teaming with our Americas operations and our Bridgestone sports and golf divisions to sponsor such a prestigious event on the PGA Tour. Just as in tires and in other rubber products, Bridgestone Golf is known for its precision and performance. What a great way to showcase our great brands and our passion for excellence.”

The Bridgestone Invitational became a part of the World Golf Championships in 1999 as the NEC Invitational. NEC had been title sponsor of the tournament since 1984.

“In welcoming Bridgestone, I would also like to express our gratitude to NEC,” added Finchem. “Its support has helped elevate this tournament into one of the premier championships in golf.”

The World Golf Championships feature elite players in a variety of competitive formats at venues around the world. Since the series debut in 1999, World Golf Championships have been held in seven countries.

When the Algarve World Cup in Portugal is held this November, that number will increase to eight. The remaining 2005 World Golf Championships are the American Express Championship at San Francisco’s Harding Park Golf Course, Oct. 4-9, and the Algarve World Cup in Portugal, Nov. 15-20 at the Victoria Clube de Golfe-Vilamoura, in the Algarve region of Portugal. The first World Golf Championships event of the year, the Accenture Match Play Championship, took place in February at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. and was won by David Toms. Accenture, American Express and Portugal are worldwide umbrella sponsors of the World Golf Championships, while JELD-WEN and Kohler are official sponsors. Prior to becoming an umbrella sponsor of the World Golf Championship next year, Bridgestone is an official sponsor for 2005.