AT&T, Byron Nelson ink deal for 2015

AT&T will become the new title sponsor of the Byron Nelson Championship beginning in 2015, the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which runs the event, announced on Friday.

The agreement is for the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, though AT&T senior executive vice president Ron Spears said in a news release that the company hopes to be the title sponsor for "many years into the future."

AT&T's commitment begins after the current contract with HP expires following the 2014 Nelson. HP has been the sponsor since 2003.

"With AT&T assuming the title sponsorship of our major fundraising event starting in 2015, we are taking steps to secure the future of the Byron Nelson Championship that funds our innovative services for at-risk and troubled children," Salesmanship Club president Charley Spradley said in a news release.

AT&T is one of the most prominent sponsors in golf. Along with being a main corporate sponsor at the Masters, the company is the title sponsor on the PGA Tour at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the AT&T National at Congressional, which is run by the Tiger Woods Foundation. Its contract with Woods' foundation expires in 2014, the year before it takes over in Dallas.

Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation, was optimistic AT&T would stay as a sponsor after 2014.

"They've been a great partner of ours," McLaughlin said from the World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "Their sponsorship began in '07, so this is an eight-year contract, which is phenomenal in this day and age. We're hopeful they're going to want to continue with the event. I know they like D.C., and they like the event."

AT&T became sponsor of Woods' new tournament at Congressional in 2007, and it had a personal endorsement deal with Woods starting in 2009, with its logo on the bag. AT&T ended that endorsement soon after Woods was caught having multiple affairs at the end of 2009, though the company has remained supportive of the tournament.

The tournament has raised $14 million since it began, which has helped support two Tiger Woods Learning Center campuses in the Washington area.

McLaughlin said he would meet with AT&T and "figure out strategically what they want to do."

"We think it's a great event," he said. "I hope they decide to stay with it."

AT&T's global headquarters are in Dallas, and the company currently sponsors the Cotton Bowl Classic, played each January at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, and have their name on the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

AT&T will be the third title sponsor in the tournament's history. GTE was the first, in 1988. When GTE was acquired by Verizon in 2001, the event's name was changed, just as it was when EDS was acquired by HP before the 2009 Nelson.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.