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The Concession Golf Club lands major PGA Champions Tour event

The World Champions Cup will be a senior players version of the Ryder Cup and is scheduled for Dec. 7-10.

Former state senator and representative Bill Galvano, Manatee Commissioner Jason Bearden, Visitor Bureau's Elliott Falcione, former PGA star Peter Jacobsen, Manatee Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and SMR Senior Vice President Laura Cole announce the World Champions Cup at The Concession.
Former state senator and representative Bill Galvano, Manatee Commissioner Jason Bearden, Visitor Bureau's Elliott Falcione, former PGA star Peter Jacobsen, Manatee Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and SMR Senior Vice President Laura Cole announce the World Champions Cup at The Concession.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Some of professional golf's all-time stars, such as Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Jim Furyk, will come to the Lakewood Ranch area in December to play in the new World Champions Cup, sanctioned by the PGA Tour Champions.

But the star of the Ryder Cup-style event, which was announced Monday, might be The Concession golf course itself.

It was Feb. 25-28, 2021, when The Concession drew world-wide attention when it hosted the World Golf Championships, an event that originally was scheduled in Mexico City but had to be moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It attracted 47 of the world's top 50-ranked players.

Colin Morikawa won that event, in which PGA players and those who announced the tournament, including former PGA star, NBC announcer and club member Paul Azinger, raved about The Concession.

Billy Horschel, who finished in a tie for second at the WGC event, 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.

Unfortunately for regional golf fans, no future PGA Tour plans included The Concession.

Even so, Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Visitors Bureau, said the $300,000 Manatee County spent to support the WGC event was money in the bank. Besides the considerable worldwide media exposure the region garnered from the event, Falcione was sure professional golf seriously would consider Manatee County for future events.

Two months following the WGC at The Concession, Manatee County's investment began to pay dividends. The PGA Tour announced that it had raised, through the tournament, $400,000 for nonprofits in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Still, two years passed with no mention of another PGA Tour or affiliated tour event at The Concession.

Until Monday.

Peter Jacobsen, the former PGA and Champions tours star who now works as a television commentator, will serve as the World Champions Cup chairman. 

"The Concession is a fabulous match play course, a ball strikers' paradise," said Jacobsen, who lives in Naples. "Missed greens here puts a lot of pressure on your game. There is no way to coast, and you never can take a moment off."

During a press conference at The Concession, Jacobsen explained the format. The competition will be between three teams, Team USA, Team Europe, and Team International. The event will consist of three days (Dec. 7, 9, 10) and will consist of eight matches each day, all nine holes featuring team formats and singles.

Points will be awarded for each hole won, not just the overall matches. That means there will be no "close outs" where the match will end because one player leads by more than the number of holes remaining. It makes every hole important whether or not a team or player is far behind.

The Concession owner Bruce Cassidy
Photo by Jay Heater

Els will captain Team International, Clarke will captain Team Europe and Furyk will captain Team USA. All captains also will play. Each team will consist of five other players.

The event will be broadcast on ESPN and ABC.

Once again, The Concession, and the surrounding area, will be in the world spotlight.

"I would say the World Golf Championships gave us the opportunity to have this event, and maybe something else in the future," said Bran Weimann, who is The Concession's general manager. "The WGC put us in front of the world, and the course showed phenomenal.

"I also always have wanted to see a match-play event on this course. It sets up well for it because it is a very strategic course, a second-shot course."

Intersport, a sports marketing company which launched and operates the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, will promote the event.

"We started working on this event 10 years ago," said Charles Besser,  chairman and CEO of Intersport. "None of this happens without a lot of collaboration. These people (at The Concession) are fabulous. What an unbelievable facility. We've seen a lot of great golf courses, but this one is very special. And Bradenton has embraced us, putting its best foot forward."

Jacobsen said it will be the type of event that could draw Tiger Woods after he turns 50 and is eligible for the Champions Tour. Woods turns 48 in December.

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said the event with be a boon to the county's economy.

"We will get returned threefold for any money spent, at the least," Baugh said. "It is a money maker for anyone in our area who is in business."

Baugh said besides economic impact and exposure, the tournament also gives the citizens a chance to see golfing legends.

"How often would they be able to come to such a tournament?" she said. "This gives you a chance to experience something amazing. The excitement is something that can't be matched."

Bruce Cassidy, the owner of The Concession Golf Club, said the event gives his team a chance to showcase the club and the course. He is hoping the Concession can host a Major championship in the future. He said his team is putting together a presentation to make for the 2031 U.S. Open.

Jacobsen was asked if he could picture a Major at The Concession.

"From a competition standpoint, yes," Jacobsen said. "But we always talk about the there Ps. People, parking and profit."

Weimann said his staff would consider clearing space for the gallery in the summer. He said the World Champions Cup final day crowd is likely to be around 5,000 people.

With lots of time to prepare for any possible Major in the future, he said The Concession would figure out ways to give access to the much larger crowds.

Clark, by way of social media, said the Champions Tour players will provide major excitement at the World Champions Cup.

"This will be something special," he said. "Do not think for one second that we are not as intense now,"

Clark was in the region last week and he played The Concession.

"What a golf course," he said.

In December, people all over the world will get another look at the Concession.

"This is an opportunity we don't take for granted," Falcione said. "(Manatee County's investment) will be 100% paid through the Tourist Tax. What it does is showcase the area, showcase Lakewood Ranch.

"We will continue to enhance our golf portfolio in an amazing industry. We will cross promote this event to the UK and central Europe. And Concession (in terms of quality) is on its own planet."

Falcione said Manatee County will continue to push to land premier events that will produce significant economic impact.

"This creates a demand for real estate," he said. "That means your homes appreciate."

Manatee County currently banks $300,000 a year earmarked for supporting future investments in professional golf events.

"A lot of communities have to go through a rigorous approval process," he said. "I am blessed that I have the Commission's trust. I am empowered to jump on the train."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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