AKRON — Bridgestone Americas' 16-year run as sponsor of Professional Golf Association events at Firestone Country Club in Akron is coming to an end.
Starting in 2023 and running through 2026, the PGA Tour Champions event will be sponsored by Kaulig Companies Ltd., a diversified consumer goods and financial consulting firm based in nearby Hudson, Ohio.
Bridgestone will fulfill its commitment with this year's Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, which runs July 7-10 at Firestone CC. The tournament, one of five majors on the Champions Tour, will feature 79 players competing for a $3 million purse.
While Bridgestone won't be out front as the PGA event sponsor, the company will continue to be active at Firestone Country Club as a "founding partner" of the event, according to Mitch Kritzell, executive director of business readiness for Bridgestone.
"In our new role as founding partner for this event, we will remain heavily involved to help drive charitable contributions and create more memorable moments at Firestone Country Club in the future."
As proof of the company's commitment to Akron, he pointed to its Firestone racing tire production facility in Akron, which is set to open June 22 and will be the city's first new tire plant in more than 70 years.
Bridgestone's involvement with the PGA and Firestone Country Club began in 2006 when it took over as title sponsor of the World Golf Championships tournament.
In 2018 the PGA decided to move the World Golf Championship event at Firestone CC out of Akron. Instead, the course landed a spot on the PGA Senior Players Championship, and Bridgestone opted to continue as sponsor through 2022.
Tournaments at Firestone Country Club have given back more than $30 million to area charities in partnership with Northern Ohio Golf Charities.
Those charities include several that Kaulig Companies already works with, including Akron Children's Hospital and the LeBron James Family Foundation.
"We want to get more involved in the Akron community," said Kaulig, a Cincinnati native who moved north in 1991 to play quarterback at the University of Akron. "To be able to spotlight the area where we live is really, really exciting."
Kaulig Companies' primary business is the LeafFilter gutter cover product. Matt Kaulig also owns and manages a NASCAR stock car team that competes in both the top-tier NASCAR Cup Series and second-tier Xfinity Series.
Tournament officials first approached Kaulig about two years ago, when it looked like Bridgestone might be looking to exit as the title sponsor. Talks grew serious early this year, with the tournament's executive director, Don Padgett III, selling Kaulig on the event's connection to the Akron community and Northeast Ohio charities — two things important to Kaulig and Tim Clepper, the president and CEO of Kaulig Cos.