Special Q&A – Jon Drago on the Future of the AT&T Byron Nelson
Jon Drago has been the Tournament Director of the AT&T Byron Nelson going on 17 years. In that time, he has seen many changes to the tournament, but the last few years have seen its ups and downs, from the construction and move to Trinity Forest, to last month’s news that the PGA TOUR was pulling the plug on hosting the event there after 2020, just three years after the first edition at the south Dallas venue. The announcement leaves more questions than answers, but Drago spent some time with AG to explain just what happened.
AVIDGOLFER: Can you give us just some broad strokes about the reasons why the announcement was made that the Nelson would be moved from Trinity Forest and how that decision was reached?
JON DRAGO: Most of it is already out there, but after a couple years of extreme weather that we had, it exposed some things that nobody had foreseen and some of the operational elements surrounding the tournament became unsustainable.
AG: Does this have anything to do with the player’s feedback about the course?
JD: It has nothing to do with the course. Most of the players continue to tell us they like it. Like any golf course, there are a lot of players that like it, and some players that don’t. The relationships we developed with the folks at Trinity Forest is something that is emotional for us, and it’s disappointing we’re going to be leaving after the 2020 tournament.
AG: If it’s not a course issue, how much of the change of venue is infrastructure based?
JD: What nobody could have anticipated was some of the infrastructure outside the ropes and how some of the extreme weather impacted the experience. Whether it was the heat the first year or some of the rain, and because it’s so natural out there, when you get rain it gets muddy and it impacts the ability to get vehicles and carts around out there. Unfortunately, we’re in a position where we can’t take those chances moving forward.
AG: What lies in the future for the Byron Nelson? In a perfect world, what do you want to see happen to the AT&T Byron Nelson moving forward?
JD: Clearly, we’re in the business of raising money for children and families here in our community through the Momentus Institute. First and foremost, we want to make the 2020 tournament the best it can be. Hopefully we get 75-degrees and sunny out there, it’s packed, and Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer are battling it out in extra holes for a title and it’s a great tournament. We’re going through the process right now to determine the future and where we’re going to go after 2020 and we’re going to look at all potential sites right now to see what kind of potential they have to raise the most money for the children and families in our community.
The 2020 AT&T Byron Nelson takes place at Trinity Forest May 4-10.