For Jon Drago, the runup to the AT&T Bryon Nelson tournament will start to feel much like a snowball rolling down a hill.
May 5, which comes in less than a month, will mark “advance week,” the tournament director said, which is when everyone comes in before the tournament kicks off May 13. Everything will be ready on the course at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, he explained, and the PGA Tour will show up to begin prepping “inside the ropes” for the competition itself. For now, the main focus has been on the spectator experience.
The approaching benchmark marks an ever-closer start to the 2021 iteration of the AT&T Byron Nelson Tournament, the first time the event will take place in McKinney.
“The level of excitement, the support we’ve received from the entire community of McKinney and greater Collin County have been just phenomenal,” Jeff Walter, 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson Tournament Chair, said. “Everybody seems really excited.”
The anticipation comes on the heels of last year’s tournament, which never saw the light of day as a result of a pandemic. This year’s four-day event will host a limited number of 10,000 patrons per day as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Walter said the experience that visitors have will be very similar to previous years, just with fewer spectators.
“We see this as kind of our first step in building a base upon which we can add over time,” Walter said, “and we’re really optimistic that it’s going to play out wonderfully for us and for the city of McKinney and Collin County, and the friends and neighbors and shopkeepers and hotel owners and all of the interested parties up there.”
The same goes for the tournament’s ability to provide funds for its charity, Momentous Institute, which provides education and therapeutic services for children and family members. Walter said while there is always a concern about raising as much money as possible, signs indicate that the tournament will be able to exceed its goal for the charity.
“We see meaningful opportunities to improve and enhance upon that in the coming years,” he added, “but we believe this year will be a financial success for our charity.”
Preparations have included partnering with the city of McKinney and its staff, which has offered guidance and direction in the runup to the tournament, Walter said.
The relationship that the two entities have developed through the planning process includes tournament personnel helping the city understand what the event will bring, Drago said, while McKinney has guided tournament personnel through things including permitting processes and safety measures.
“That’s what’s been so refreshing, coming from a larger urban city where they’re working on multiple events at the same time, if we call the city right now, we need someone to answer the phone, they’re always available,” Drago said.
The tournament runs May 13-16.
“We are excited to be here,” Drago said. “We are excited to introduce the world to McKinney, Texas, and we’re ready to be back, to be honest, after a year off.”
This article has been updated to correct the name of the tournament charity, Momentous Institute.