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East County Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018 1 year ago

A new Web.com site — in Lakewood Ranch!

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Lakewood National Golf Club will host a Web.com Tour event next February.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

It was a press conference to name a new Web.com Tour event to be held Feb. 11-17 at Lakewood National Golf Club, but the talk wasn't all that much about golf.

It was about sales.

"Our objectives are to drive tourism and economic development," said Dan Glod, the Web.com Tour president. "We have had this market on our radar a long time. We want to sell homes, and market real estate."

Tara's Justin Kristrich, who was hired as the tournament director in May, talked about his goal of finding a name sponsor for the tournament.

Kyle Bernethy, the vice president of sales for Lennar, the builder of Lakewood Ranch National, was excited about selling homes. "This tournament will take us to a new level, working with a national brand," he said. "It's another way to market our homes."

Then Sean Walter, the director of sports for Bradenton Area Sports Commission, took the podium at the Powell Crosley Estate, which hosted the press conference June 4 in Sarasota.

"We get to showcase another asset (in Manatee County)," Walter said. "Arts, culture, shopping, award-winning restaurants, beautiful beaches."

But what about the golf?

Glod changed gears to concentrate on his product.

"This level prepares and helps to transition the next wave of PGA Tour stars," Glod said. "When you see these guys play, you will be seeing players you absolutely will know quickly (when they reach the PGA Tour). You will see world class golf."

Besides the talent the Web.com Tour will supply, Glad said he is very impressed with Lakewood National and its surroundings.

"Obviously, you need to have a course that can stand up and be competitive," Glad said. "Our guys are going to love this course. We have a lot of area here, a big ballpark. The holes are not cookie cutter and we will have all the facilities we will need. When you look at the character of the holes and the condition of the course, you know it is right. We are looking at a blank canvas with plenty of space for our volunteers and our fans."

Walter said the tournament will give area golf fans the chance to close to come of the best golf athletes in the world.

David Perritt of Icon Management, which runs the course, said he is not nervous to be hosting a professional event.

"It's ready to play," he said. "Tough enough is a relative concept."

He said course management won't change much heading into the tournament so the pros will be challenging the same course Lakewood National's patrons play every day.

Perritt did say he is excited to learn more on the operational side from having to many PGA experts around. He also expects his course will gain some play after the event.

"Anytime you have an event affiliated with the PGA, it drives notoriety," Perritt said.

He noted Lakewood National's amenities center will be finished in the fall.

Prices to the event should average about $10 a day for adults. A pass for the week will cost about $35. Prices have yet to be set.

Kristich emphasized the event is more than a four-day golf tournament. A pro-am will be held the Wednesday before the event and other events in the community will be held leading up to the Web.com event.

In the meantime, Kristich is looking to find an office to host the tournament effort and he will begin looking for "a couple of hundred" volunteers in about two months. A website — thesuncoastclassic.com — has been started but it hasn't been developed yet to host information such as ticket packages and volunteer registration. That is coming.

Tara's Justin Kristich will be the Suncoast Classic's tournament director.

"Right now it is about getting the word out and getting the community excited," Kristich said. "This will be a regional event and we want both counties (Manatee and Sarasota) involved."

Kristich has played Lakewood National and he expects the course to provide quite a challenge to the pros. "They won't be able to just bomb the ball," he said. "They will need to think."

The tournament isn't likely to be televised by Golf Channel its first year. Glod said 12 of the Web.com's 27 events scheduled for this season will be televised. 

"TV is not a requirement," he said. "We don't want to put that kind of pressure on a first-time event. We have the ability to add Golf Channel, but it can be expensive."

The end goal is to have a financially successful tournament which will turn profits over to local charities.

"Our business model is to give back to the community," Glod said. "Our tour has been here 29 years and we have four events that have been with us 29 years. We want to play here forever. We think this market is sustainable for a long, long time. It's just incredible to see what's going on here. The Suncoast Classic will be another way to make everyone aware of this beautiful area."

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