It's tee time!
The 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson Tournament is making a comeback to North Texas this year at its new home at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney.
The iconic golf tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic but will be accommodating fans and players for a busy weekend of competition.
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This is the first time in its seven-decade history that the Byron Nelson will be played outside of Dallas County. Organizers have spent the past year preparing the grounds in Collin County, which has turned out to be a potentially challenging course for some of the world's best players.
"This is actually some of the better fields we’ve had in some time. This course was designed to eventually get the Byron Nelson, which we're excited to bring to Collin County this year," said John Jenkins, Golf Chair for the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which has hosted the Byron Nelson since 1968.
Big names include the Byron Nelson 2019 defending champ Sung Kang, former SMU player and fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau, local favorite Jordan Speith, four-time major winner and 10th ranked Brooks Koepka, and Hideki Matsuyama, who recently won the Masters this year.
The golf world's number one ranked Dustin Johnson had previously committed to the tournament but withdrew this week because of a knee problem.
"It’s a wonderful course that is really going to challenge these pros and the finishing holes are fantastic," said Jenkins. “You’re going to have a really high risk, high reward opportunity for some of these pros to want to make a move so it’s going to be fun."
Highlights of this year’s course layout include viewing venues centered around holes 16, 17, and 18. A stadium-like setup at hole 17 will give fans a unique vantage point of the par-3 hole as players head into the final stretch.
For the players, the return of the Nelson after a coronavirus cancellation in 2020 -- and now the second relocation of the event since 2018 -- comes with eyes on next week's PGA Championship.
“Not having a tournament last year was disappointing for all of us but that’s what makes this year so special," said Jenkins.
The PGA Tour will be enforcing COVID-19 protocols. Masks are required, except while actively eating and drinking. There’s also a 25% capacity limit, which is about 12,500 fans per day. Hand washing and sanitizing stations will be set up throughout the grounds.
“Safety is our first priority," said Jenkins. “We’re looking forward to the future when we'll be back at our 50,000+ spectators a day."
Tickets have already sold out for the four-day tournament.
Looking ahead, the AT&T Byron Nelson will be in McKinney to stay, at least for a while. The tournament made an agreement with TPC Craig Ranch for the next five years, which means an economic boost for McKinney and beyond.
"The leaders in McKinney have been invaluable partners, and we are confident our new home will earn praise from the field and our loyal fans who have long made this one of the most special stops on the entire TOUR," said Jeff Walter, AT&T Byron Nelson Tournament Chair.
And it's more than just golf. The golf tournament is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Momentous Institute, the nonprofit founded by the Salesmanship Club in 1920.
“We are the only nonprofit in North Texas that combines both a community mental health program and a neighborhood elementary school," said Kate Whidden, executive director of the Momentous Institute.
The organization works with over 5,500 children and family members each year through its nationally acclaimed Momentous School, innovative therapeutic services, research and training. It provides social and emotional support for children and families, which has been especially crucial throughout the pandemic.
"Because we have a large therapeutic services team, that did mean an increased number of calls in terms of people who want to talk about what they’re living with -- anxiety, depression and uncertainty. These are the hard things to navigate," said Whidden. "We understand that the services we provide cost money. The way that we pay for those are many and diverse but the main attraction is the AT&T Byron Nelson. We have sincere gratitude to everyone who is supporting it this year."
The Salesmanship Club of Dallas has supported the Momentous Institute for decades. Through hosting the Byron Nelson annually, the club has fundraised $167 million for the organization over the past 53 years.
The Momentous Institute was also named the 2019 PGA TOUR’s Charity of the Year.
"That’s a testimony to just how deep the roots of this organization are and how dedicated people are to showing up year after year to make sure these programs are made available to kids and families in greater Dallas," said Whidden.