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Side of Ranch

Concession Golf Club makes a major statement during World Champions Cup

Could the 2031 PGA Championship now go to the Lakewood Ranch-area course?

Team USA's David Toms and Brett Quigley look over the green on the No. 9 hole at The Concession Golf Club during the World Champions Cup at The Concession.
Team USA's David Toms and Brett Quigley look over the green on the No. 9 hole at The Concession Golf Club during the World Champions Cup at The Concession.
Photo by Jay Heater
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So the best news from the World Champions Cup golf event at The Concession Golf Club was delivered by Dean Boeving, a local golf fan who used the parking shuttle from Premier Sports Campus to The Concession.

"It was such a quick in-and-out with the parking," said Boeving, who lives in Lakewood Ranch.

Boeving said the entire trip was only about 10 minutes, which has to be music to the ears of PGA Tour officials.

While the inaugural World Champions Cup Dec. 7, 8 and 10 was a high-profile event that figures to increase in importance as it becomes a tradition, The Concession has even more at stake in proving it not only has a wonderful golf course, but that it can handle large crowds.

That will be of the utmost importance when it comes to awarding the 2031 PGA Championship, which is nearing the end of the bid process. The Concession folks believe they have put together a solid bid.

The PGA Tour has not announced any attendance figures for the World Champions Cup but, while all involved were happy with the turnout, attendance wasn't anywhere near what it would be for a regular PGA Tour event let alone a Major championship.

When The Concession hosted the World Golf Championships in 2021 during COVID-19, fans weren't allowed on the course, other than those invited by the club or the PGA Tour. 

So there had to be a question of whether a course that has such a remote feel could handle 50,000 fans a day.

The 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York drew 225,000 spectators over its four rounds.

Going into last week's World Champions Cup, I talked to local golf fans who were worried about the shuttle trip. It's nice to hear it was a breeze.

If you watched the event, either at the course or on TV, you probably could tell the course has the bones to host a large crowd. As the players made their way through the course (they only played the back nine), it was obvious that club owner Bruce Cassidy and his staff have plenty of room to handle fan traffic. Plus, if they do land the bid, they will have seven years to plan everything.

Manatee County will have seven years to plan as well, and it will be all about getting fans to and from the course. Premier will be a big part of that parking plan, but I would imagine a few other sites will be needed as well, perhaps something off University Parkway.

If you are not a golf fan and are wondering why any of this is important to you, consider the 2023 PGA Championship was estimated by Greater Rochester Enterprise to have a $190 million economic impact.

As far as the World Champions Cup goes, it was a solid start for an event that seems likely to have a place on the PGA Tour Champions schedule every year.

The Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup only are each played once every two years, and the events alternate years. The long wait between competitions is one factor that builds intensity, somewhat like the Olympics. If you play poorly, as the Americans did this year, it's a long wait for another shot.

Considering the age of the PGA Tour Champions players, an annual World Champions Cup event makes more sense. The players have a much shorter shelf life, at least if you aren't Bernhard Langer, who continues to be a premier player at 66.

So if you have a few mega-stars, you want to utilize their draw as many times as possible.

Considering all the players' effusive praise for The Concession and its facilities, our area could continue to host the event on a regular basis. That doesn't happen with Ryder Cups or Presidents Cups, which bounce from course to course. 

The Belfry in Warwickshire,, England has hosted the most Ryder Cups, which started in 1927, at four. If the World Champions Cup returns to The Concession next year, as is being considered, it's halfway there.

Once established, it is likely the event will go overseas at times, but consider the landscape of senior golf. Most of the top senior players in the world play on the PGA Tour Champions, with most of the tournaments in America, including the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, which all the top players attend, in November.

What that means is that the world's top players already are in the U.S., so why not play the World Champions Cup in America?

There is a major wild card, or two, in all this. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

On Dec. 30, Woods turns 48, which means he is three years away from the Senior Tour. Note that players on the senior tour must turn 50 by June 1 of that year to be eligible. Don't be surprised if a "Tiger rule" isn't adopted to make Woods eligible in 2025.

It isn't likely that Woods will have much interest in playing on PGA Tour Champions, at least not early in his eligibility. However, the World Champions Cup might be very attractive to him. Consider what Woods' presence here in the Lakewood Ranch area would mean.

Mickelson's case is different in that he already is eligible for PGA Tour Champions and has, in fact, won four of the six events he entered. Mickelson's involvement with the LIV golf league leaves him ineligible for PGA Tour Champions events, but a merger between LIV and the PGA Tour is being negotiated.

If Mickelson becomes eligible for PGA Tour Champions, imagine what his popularity (despite all his troubles) would mean to a World Champions Cup here in the Lakewood Ranch area?

Perhaps taking a shuttle to the course wouldn't be so easy.



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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