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East County Wednesday, Mar. 3, 2021 1 month ago

Will Lakewood Ranch-area golf event at The Concession pay off for Manatee County?

World's best players loved The Concession, but no PGA Tour event is planned for the future.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

During the week prior to the World Golf Championships at The Concession, members of the club told me how they carried around a little square, rubber mat with them during their golf rounds.

When they had to hit a shot in the fairway, they dropped the mat to the ground and set the ball on it. That way, when they swung, they wouldn't leave a divot.

Yes, when those NBC cameras flew over the course Feb. 25-28, The Concession owner Bruce Cassidy Sr., and the membership, wanted the course to look pristine.

It did.

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

Four days of golf on the world's grandest stage — 47 of the top 50 ranked players in the world were present — have come and gone and now, hopefully, it's time to reap the rewards.

It couldn't have gone better for The Concession as the players lined up to voice their approval. They didn't just like the place, they loved it. They said they can't wait to get back, even though the PGA Tour has no event scheduled for the area in the future.

Major champion Paul Azinger, NBC's golf analyst for the broadcast, should be shipped a couple of cases of Tropicana oranges, courtesy of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, for his commentary. Azinger, who has to be a tad biased since he is a member at The Concession, made the course seem like the Pebble Beach of the East.

Then the current pros rushed to agree with him. Billy Horschel, who finished in a tie for second, said the greens reminded him of Augusta National, which hosts the Masters each year. Patrick Reed called the course "awesome" and Rory McIlroy talked about everyone having better knowledge of the course when — not if — the PGA Tour returns.

Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing said he was mesmerized watching the world's best chip to the very difficult green complexes. Jim "Bones" Mackay, the current analyst and former caddy for Phil Mickelson, added levity, saying The Concession had several places around the course where you could lose a few strokes, and "a few places you could lose a limb."

That was in reference to those alligator shots that showed up during the Golf Channel and NBC coverage.

Only a few invited guests could attend the World Golf Championships at The Concession, so Manatee County is left hoping for another event for a full economic impact.

Everything seemed perfect, except Manatee County residents have no idea when or if the PGA Tour ever will return.

That's OK if you are Cassidy, because The Concession is going to reap benefits in terms of new club members and homeowners from the past week. That's a given. It definitely was worth all that new sand he put in the course's bunkers and all those new flowers at The Concession's entrance.

If you are a Manatee County resident, you might not be convinced the World Golf Championships has rattled your world.

Elliott Falcione, the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, earmarked $250,000 of taxpayer money toward sponsoring the event. Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch for that matter, had no signs on course, and no commercials during the coverage.

Basically, it was money given to the PGA Tour to strengthen a relationship that has no guarantees, but plenty of promise.

Still, it's hard to see that promise. Cassidy said he doesn't want an annual event, so that rules out most of the opportunities, unless he has changed his mind. Few other opportunities would seem to exist, unless the PGA Championships would be an option in the next 10 years. The weather window wouldn't favor the U.S. Open (a June event) or the Ryder Cup (usually September) here in Florida.

Sponsoring the event seemed a no-brainer, though, as Manatee County Commissioners agreed with Falcione that the quarter of a million dollars is money in the bank.

Now, though, would be a good time for Manatee County elected officials and staff members to practice some transparency. Educate us, the citizens, as to the future payoff for our investment. In the coming weeks, if people around the world are checking out the Bradenton, Manatee County and Lakewood Ranch websites, let us know. If they are visiting our beaches and our other attractions, show us the statistics.

If the PGA Tour has plans for a return, enlighten us. Because, as well all know, no fans were allowed into his event, so our local businesses and restaurants only saw a minor gain from the 2021 event. We're all hoping this wasn't a one-and-done.

Please county officials, keep us informed. That way we can all embrace the next similar opportunity, and the next, and the next.

Kevin Na waits to hit a shot during the World Golf Championships at The Concession. The course's beautiful scenery was on display during NBC's televised coverage.












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