- October 8, 2020
It's a common refrain from sports fans watching professional competitions on TV.
"Even I could do better than that."
Area putting aficionados have a chance to put that refrain to the test.
PopStroke, a putting, eating and drinking venue founded in 2018 by Greg Bartoli and Tiger Woods' TGR Ventures, opened its University Town Center location in April. From Oct. 26 to Oct. 28, the location will be home to the inaugural PopStroke Tour Championship, a putting competition sponsored by TaylorMade.
The event will have two competitions, a Team Championship (two players per team) and a Stroke Play (individual) Championship. Combined, the competitions are expected to bring approximately 500 participants to the UTC location.
Both competitions will feature four rounds of 18 holes, with cuts after the second round, just like a PGA Tour event. The team competition has a purse of $100,000 with the winners splitting $20,000 and the individual competition has a purse of $25,000, with the winner getting $5,000.
There's another difference between the two competitions, too. On Oct. 28, the winners of the team competition will get to play against professional golfers Rickie Fowler and Paula Creamer in the "$25K Showdown," a single 18-hole round of putting that will see the winners take all the cash.
The showdown will air Nov. 20 on the Bally Sports family of regional networks as well as on Golf Channel. Fowler has won five career PGA Tour events and has finished second at a major tournament three times. Creamer has won 10 LPGA events including the 2010 U.S. Women's Open. Both golfers are sponsored by TaylorMade, which connected the golfers to the event.
Bartoli said having Fowler and Creamer participate in the inaugural PTC validates the event, giving it instant credibility within the golf world. Bartoli said he is thankful to TaylorMade for helping make it happen.
PopStroke director of marketing Melissa Sullivan said people interested in watching the showdown, but not playing, will be able to enter the venue "for a small fee." That fee is still to be determined as of Oct. 15. In addition, Bartoli said only the Tiger Red course will be occupied during the PTC. The rest of the PopStroke venue will operate as normal, including the Tiger Black (family friendly) course, so non-participants can play a round on that course and order food and drinks before watching the $25K Showdown if they wish.
Parking at PopStroke will be free. Sullivan said the parking lots at Dillard's and other surrounding stores will be used as overflow locations if the PopStroke lot becomes full.
Bartoli said the PTC was born out of PopStroke's unique vision.
"This is what PopStroke is all about," Bartoli said. "We're bringing people together in a competitive, dynamic environment around the game of golf, regardless of age or skill level or background. Putting is a great equalizer. It's not intimidating. A lot of people can do it successfully. Just because a Tour pro can hit the ball 350 yard down the center of the fairway, it doesn't necessarily mean they can putt better than a local golfer who happens to be a great putter. Bringing the two together, it's going to be interesting."
It is the "Pros versus Joes" dynamic of the event that Bartoli said drew interest from the television networks. Bartoli said golf is a unique sport in the way amateurs can compete with professionals if they have a good day. It's different than sports like baseball, where the average person cannot hit a curveball, or basketball, where the sheer athleticism of the professional athletes will win out. Bartoli said he and the networks believe that plenty of golf fans will want to see how the amateurs fare in the 25K Showdown.
The PTC could have been held at any of PopStroke's three other locations — Orlando, Port St. Lucie and Fort Myers — but Bartoli said the UTC location was selected to host because it is the largest and the only one to feature an upstairs section, which will provide a great view to watch the competition and provide plenty of space for the TV crews to operate. Bartoli said the region's love of golf didn't hurt, either.
"It is the perfect venue for us to accomplish this competitive tournament," Bartoli said. "We think this is going to be great for the Sarasota community as well."
The event could prove more challenging for Fowler and Creamer than it appears. The greens at the UTC PopStroke measure 12.5 on the Stimpmeter, a device used to measure the speed of a golf course putting green. The fastest greens on the PGA Tour are often measured at 12 or higher on the device, meaning PopStroke's greens compare favorably.
Entry into the PTC's Team Championship competition costs $500. Entry into the PTC's Stroke Play (individual) Championship costs $250. Registration for both events closes at 5 p.m. Oct. 24. To register or for more information, visit PopStroke's website.