Want confirmation the World Champions Cup — a PGA Tour Champions event coming to The Concession Golf Club on Dec. 7-10 — is a big deal?
Just ask Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open winner.
North will cover the World Champions Cup as part of ESPN's coverage of the event. He has been with ESPN since 1992.
The tournament also will be covered by ABC. ESPN is majority owned by ABC's corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company, in partnership with Hearst Communications.
A former player on the University of Florida golf team, North said he has never been to The Concession, though he's looking forward to seeing it in action. He's excited about the event in general and said, "Whenever you combine a lot of talented players and a format fans don't often see, it makes for a great time for everyone.
"It's going to be neat," he said. "The fact that you have so many big-time players — people know who they are. These are Hall of Famers, Major championship winners, Ryder Cup players, Presidents Cup players. That is the beauty of the Champions tour. It is always intriguing to watch."
North, who played 128 events on PGA Tour Champions, said he would have loved to have played in such a format.
"It makes things interesting," he said.
North started with ESPN as an on-site reporter before adding an analyst role to his resume. His analysis has been so good that players on the PGA Tour are known to tune into his segments to pick up an extra tip or two.
But that doesn't mean he is ready to predict a winner in the inaugural World Champions Cup. He said he is curious as anyone to see what is going to transpire.
"I think the teams are even, as far as talent and how people have played this year," North said. "Obviously, the year (Team USA's Steve) Stricker has had has been amazing. But then (Team Europe's Bernhard) Langer and (Team International's Steven) Alker have also had unbelievable years. What you are going to see is a lot of good golfers playing a lot of good golf."
Stricker, 56, has six wins and five runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour Champions this year. Langer, 66, has two wins and one runner-up finish. Alker, 52, has two wins and five runner-up finishes. The trio is hardly alone on their respective teams in terms of players who could impress at the World Champions Cup. In fact, North said, anyone could.
The quality of the golf means that North and his ESPN colleagues will be covering the event like they would any other. To them, it is not a gimmicky event or an exhibition. It is a fresh idea, one that could grow in popularity and prestige with time — though it is a challenge to say just how much it will grow before the first event is played.
"I do think it is something that players will want to play in," North said. "That's the most important thing."
Anyone paying attention to The Concession's moves in recent years can surmise the club would like the World Champions Cup to be the beginning of something big. Bruce Cassidy, the owner of The Concession, is currently awaiting word on whether his bid for the 2031 PGA Championship has been successful. The club received a taste of the PGA when it hosted the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship in 2021, after COVID-19 precautions forced the event to move to the United States from Mexico.
Without having been to the course, North said it is difficult to assess the Concession's potential for holding even larger-scale events like the PGA Championship, though he has heard positive feedback from his friends "Jack and Tony" — meaning Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, the two men whose act of sportsmanship at the 1969 Ryder Cup gave the club its name. North has also done research on how it plays and he has watched the coverage of the Workday Championship.
Because Florida has hosted just two Major championships in history — the 1971 PGA Championship at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens and the 1987 PGA Championship at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens — North said he is skeptical of it happening, even though the course has a lot of positives going for it.
"It's difficult (to say)," North said. "It's a golf course that you can set up and make it as difficult as you want it to be. Down there, when the wind starts blowing, it can cause problems. On a nice day, guys could go out there and shoot pretty good scores, but if you get 15-to-20 mph winds with all the hazards and all the water and the other stuff that is there, it can turn into a disaster pretty quickly."
It will be another chance for The Concession to impress the golf world.
When it comes purely to quality of golf, there's little doubt about the level of competition fans around the globe will see during the World Champions Cup. Ten of the top 11 players in the 2023 Charles Schwab Cup standings, which ranks the players by money won, have agreed to play.
"These guys are going to be out there grinding away," North said. "They want to beat the other guys. It's the first time for the event, and you want to be the guys to put your names on the trophy first."
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.