Article originally published on Crain’s by Joe Scalzo.

This summer, the Kaulig Companies Championship at Firestone Country Club will feature plenty of flags, dog legs, links and slices.

Oh, and the golf will be pretty good, too.

In its second year as title sponsor of the PGA TOUR Champions major, Hudson-based Kaulig Cos. is leaning even heavier into the fan experience, offering an expanded Kaulig Infinity Zone and a new military appreciation platform for the event, which runs from July 10-14 at Firestone South.

“With last year being Kaulig Companies’ first year, I think people saw a noticeable difference in the resources (invested) and the fan amenities,” Don Padgett III, the tournament’s executive director, said in a recent interview with Crain’s Cleveland. “We continue to grow that this year. There are going to be lots of cool places for people to hang out, have a beverage and get a bite. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

This year’s tournament marks the 71st anniversary of professional golf at Firestone Country Club. It’s also the sixth year Firestone has hosted the PGA Tour Champions event. Kaulig replaced Bridgestone as the title sponsor last year and is signed on through 2026, which happens to be the first year Tiger Woods would be eligible for the event.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from them (Kaulig) is that Year One went really well and feel like this year is going really well, too,” said Padgett, who said 2023 tournament attendance increased year-over-year. “I think we feel good about moving forward with Kaulig Companies in the future. They’re committed at least through 2026 and I think it’s been great for both partners.”

Matt Kaulig, executive chairman of Kaulig Companies, said the company is proud to be the title sponsor, calling it “more than a tournament.”

“It’s a celebration of community and philanthropy, having raised over $1.3 million for charitable organizations,” he said in a statement. “We want everyone to join us for year two in continuing the legacy of giving back at this incredible event and help us make an even bigger impact in Northeast Ohio.”

As for whether he expects Tiger to eventually return to Firestone, where he’s won eight of his 16 starts, Padgett said, “We feel good about it. Obviously, he’s had a great stretch run here and it would be great to see Tiger back at Firestone. He definitely likes this place for sure.”

This year’s tournament is being marketed as “One ticket, two experiences,” emphasizing the fact that you don’t have to be a golf fan to enjoy the event.

To that end, here are five things to note.

Expanded concerts

Live music has become increasingly important at the tournament and this year is no different, with the tournament offering concerts on each of its first three days:

  • Spotlight on Charity Concert, Thursday, July 11: Area artists such as Marc Lee Shannon, Benny Lava and The Guavas and Anya Van Rose will perform. 
  • Military Appreciation Concert, Friday, July 12: Country music singer Kameron Marlowe, a contestant on Season 15 of NBC’s The Voice, will headline the event, which also features country singers Tim Dugger and Jocko Deal.
  • The Vindys, Saturday, July 13: The Youngstown-based band, which is touring with Pat Benatar this summer, will be back for the third straight year. Saturday’s concert will also feature The Pallay Boys — Colt and Jagger Pallay are former Hudson High School football players who moved to Nashville to start a music career — as well as Pittsburgh-based band The Commonheart.

“We’re extending the music to another night just because people really enjoyed it, sticking around in the late afternoon and early evening and enjoying the summertime here in Ohio,” Padgett said. “It was fun to have (golfer) John Daly around for some of the performances (last year) and, you never know, we might see him coming out this year as well.”

Military appreciation

While military appreciation isn’t new at Firestone — active military, veterans and first responders as well as a guest can attend the event for free after registering at the tournament’s website — this year’s tournament expands those offerings with “Folds of Honor Friday.”

Folds of Honor is a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled service members and first responders. 

The tournament partnership includes:

  • Thirteen academic scholarships, totaling at least $65,000, to local children and spouses of fallen or disabled military and first responders.
  • The pin flag at the 13th hole will be a U.S. flag that will be attended by a member of the U.S. military for the duration of the tournament.
  • The Ceremonial First Tee Shot, which will feature a member of the U.S. military hitting the opening tee shot on Friday morning after the playing of the national anthem at 9:30 a.m.

“It’s the only sport that we know of in the U.S. that doesn’t play the national anthem before you start, so I was like, ‘Great, we’re going to partner with you (Folds of Honor) and change that,’” Padgett said. “We’ve always done things for the military and veterans and first responders, but it will be a lot more visible this year.”

Food options — and more

In addition to the aforementioned links (brats from Hofbräuhaus) and slices (Scott’s Fire & Ice Wood Fired Pizza), the tournament will include Mexican street cuisine from Barra De Taco as well as offerings from Just Wing’n It, Moonstone Coffee Works, Pav’s Creamery and more.

And if you eat too much, well, you can always walk over to wherever John Daly is playing and remind yourself that he’s a professional athlete.

On a related note, two of this year’s partners are Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey and the Cigar Den by Hammer & Nails.

And for pet lovers, One of a Kind Pet Rescue will offer “The Ruff,” a dog petting area with adoptable pets. (This fulfills all the pun obligations for the story’s first sentence.)


Last summer’s Kaulig Companies Championship and Ambassador of Golf event raised $1,233,750 for Northeast Ohio charities — the largest annual charitable total ever generated from professional golf events at Firestone.

“It’s really just a testament to the community and people supporting us,” Padgett said. “Kaulig Companies got a lot of their partners involved, which was awesome, and we’re looking forward to continuing to grow that this year.”

Professional golf events at Firestone have raised more than $32 million for charity since 1984. Kaulig Cos. executive chairman Matt Kaulig and CEO/president Tim Clepper have said they’d like the event to raise $2 million each year for charity and the Ambassador of Golf event plays a big role in that.

Former Colts and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be honored with the 2024 Ambassador of Golf Award on July 11 at House 330 in Akron. 

One of the tournament’s charity partners is Hearts for Music, which provides music opportunities for children with special needs. Several of those kids are going to learn to play “Rocky Top” — the college fight song of Manning’s alma mater, the University of Tennessee — and will play that song for Manning at the event.

“We like to put faces to the impact of the charity dollars, rather than just saying, ‘We gave them X,’” Padgett said. “We’re looking to pull at the heartstrings of the people there to continue to raise dollars.”


While the tournament doesn’t have quite the same sizzle as when it was a PGA Tour event, the golfers still take center stage.

Defending champion Steve Stricker will look for his third win on Firestone South in the last four years. Ernie Els, Fred Couples, John Daly and many other famous golfers are also expected to compete. 

“Golf is really one of the few sports where you can continue to shine for a long time in your career,” Padgett said. “And if you look at the list of winners over the years at Firestone, the cream always seem to rise to the top.”