Seventy-two of the world's top-ranked professional golfers will be featured Feb. 25-28 at the $10.5 million World Golf Championships at the Concession Golf Club in the Lakewood Ranch area.
Unfortunately, most East County residents won't be able to see them — except on television.
The PGA Tour made the announcement Jan. 15 that the Concession would host the tournament, which was originally scheduled as the World Golf Championships-Mexico to be held in Mexico City. COVID-19 issues in Mexico City forced the move. The PGA Tour stated it is not a permanent change and noted the event will return to Mexico City in 2022.
COVID-19 issues also mean no general admission tickets will be sold at the Concession. A small number of tickets will be sold to Concession club members and invited guests. The event will include a Wednesday pro-am and honorary observers.
About the only other way to see the golfers in person will be as a volunteer working the event. Meghan Costello, the WGC-Mexico tournament director, said the event will require approximately 400 volunteers. A link to a volunteer sign-up sheet will be made public later this week.
Costello said getting those volunteers is the biggest challenge of moving an event of this magnitude — especially with 45 days notice — but with the golf community being strong, Costello doesn't anticipate problems.
The event is one week after the Korn Ferry Tour holds its LECOM Suncoast Classic event at Lakewood National Golf Club. The event's 2021 title sponsor is still to be determined.
Concession general manager Brian Weimann said the club, which was named “Best New Private Course” by Golf Digest when it opened in 2006, never has been interested in hosting an annual PGA Tour event. Weimann said the club's first priority will always be its members, and hosting an annual event would take away too much course time from them.
One-off events like this one, however, are perfect, Weimann said. They bring attention to the club and show off the beauty of the course to a national audience while minimizing the time the course is blocked from member use. That's why the club connected with the PGA Tour when it heard the tournament would have to be moved out of Mexico City.
Down the line, Weimann said, the club would potentially be interested in periodically hosting one of the PGA Tour's major championships.
"Getting this event is the first step in getting a seat at the table," Weimann said.
Weimann said the club will be touching up some of its green-side bunkers before the event, but otherwise is ready to go.
"I've seen lots of courses and this one is right up there," Costello said. "Driving up 18 with the water and the clubhouse in the background, it's cool."
The tournament's first two days will be broadcast on the Golf Channel, while its final two days will be broadcast on NBC. Elliott Falcione, the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said getting Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton and Sarasota mentioned on national television is a unique opportunity.
"It's all about branding," Falcione said. "The viewership demographic of the tournament aligns with how we showcase the region. Getting it on national television, it's another thing to add to the tool belt."
Dom DiMaio, the president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, said it's another opportunity to elevate the region in the nation's — and the world's — eyes.
"At the very minimum, we are going to get people coming into town and spending their money," DiMaio said. "But we also are going to get that national recognition. People are going to ask, 'What is Lakewood Ranch?' and they are going to Google it. Members of golf courses around the nation are going to see one of the best courses in the nation."
Costello said the tournament field is to be determined, as golfers have until the Friday before the event to withdraw or commit to playing. However, the field is usually filled with stars. Patrick Reed won the $1,820,000 first-place money in last year's WGC-Mexico event, holding off a field that included Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau among other top names.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.