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World Champions Cup to throw block party in Lakewood Ranch

The inaugural PGA Tour Champions event is going all out to thank The Concession and the region.

Former Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, Concession owner Bruce Cassidy, PGA Tour Champions President Miller Brady, Intersport founder Charles Besser and former PGA Tour star Peter Jacobsen announced the new World Champions Cup in April.
Former Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, Concession owner Bruce Cassidy, PGA Tour Champions President Miller Brady, Intersport founder Charles Besser and former PGA Tour star Peter Jacobsen announced the new World Champions Cup in April.
Photo by Jay Heater
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It will be a party, and all during it, Lakewood Ranch will be under the microscope.

The folks who are putting together the World Champions Cup Dec. 7, 8 and 10 at The Concession have decided to host a block party on Friday, Dec. 8 at Waterside Place.

All you have to do is show up and have fun.

"This is a first for us," said Brittany Jeanis, who is the World Champions Cup tournament director and who also holds the same position at the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. "This is very exciting for us partnering with Lakewood Ranch (Schroeder-Manatee Ranch). We can gauge awareness and interest. And we can get the community excited."

The free Community Block Party, which runs from 6-9 p.m., will feature a visit from the three event captains, Ernie Els (Team International), Jim Furyk (Team USA) and Darren Clarke (Team Europe). All are Major champions. You can get up close with them, snap a photo and get the autographs of bonafide golf legends.

The block party, which is open to the public, will include ticket giveaways for Sunday's final rounds, T-shirt giveaways, interactive games for all ages, live music by the Bay Kings Band, and a chance to take a photo with the first World Champions Cup trophy.

"The block party is unique," Jeanis said. "We want to celebrate golf, and we want to be good partners with the community."

This will be the first World Champions Cup and the first time the PGA Tour Champions has put together a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup type event. Instead of the U.S. against Europe in the Ryder Cup or the U.S. against an international team (minus Europe) at the Presidents Cup, all three teams will be represented.

The Intersport-owned event will be covered worldwide on ESPN and ABC.

Now it's a matter of whether those in the Lakewood Ranch area will embrace the event, which could return again next year if all goes well.

Being the inaugural event, fans from around the world might want to see how it all works before they book flights to the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. So local support will allow that to happen in short order, and of course, that means greater economic impact to area businesses.

Elliott Falcione, the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a Lakewood Ranch resident, said the World Champions Cup will be a great opportunity to see legends of the game, and to support Manatee County's effort to present events with international clout in our community.

He said The Concession's hosting of the 2021 World Golf Championships was a major forward step. The World Champions Cup will be another.

"The World Golf Championship helped brand us," Falcione said. "This will be another level of branding for The Concession and the region. Another key is the TV component, where our community will be showcased. Communities of our size don't often get that chance."

Falcione said local golf fans don't need to think about any of that. He just said it amounts to a can't miss opportunity to see golf's legends.

"You don't want to miss this opportunity," he said.

While Jeanis didn't release the numbers, she said the event organizers are very pleased with ticket sales.

"Ticket sales are going well, both at the corporate level and with fans," she said. "We are seeing the support.

"And we are writing a new chapter in golf."

Jeanis was asked if it was hard getting a commitment from Els, Furyk and Clarke to attend the block party considering it will follow the second day of competition.

"We have phenomenal captains," she said. "They are excited to be here."

She said the tournament will host an opening ceremony before Thursday's opening tee shot at 9:30 a.m. The first 300 fans inside the gates will receive a free special commemorative T-shirt that only will be available for the opening tee shot ceremony.

"This is Year One, and we will be growing the brand," Jeanis said. "We want to get more eyeballs, and more people, looking at this event. The future is very bright."

On the course during the event, several fan zones are being set up. A Crossroads Fan Zone presented by Skechers Performance will be a gathering place between the short Par4 third hole and the Par 4 ninth tee box. Five local food trucks will offer a variety of culinary choices and beverages.

The Jack and Tony's Place Fan Zone will be a nod to Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, who were battling in individual play at the 1969 Ryder's Cup when Nicklaus conceded Jacklin's final putt which left the U.S. and Europe in the first tie in series history.

The zone will be to the left of the fifth green and the left of the sixth hole tee box. It will feature three local food trucks.

The First Tee Bar and Publix Grab 'N Go will give fans the chance to buy a Publix sub before heading out for the course or the grandstands.

A replica of the tournament trophy will be located between the ninth green and the clubhouse for fan photos. Shell, a founding official partner of the event, will be giving away swag through various giveaways during the competition.

Parents should note that kids 15 and under get free admission with a ticketed adult (up to four kids per one ticketed adult).



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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