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Do you have room for Korn Ferry Tour golfers in Lakewood Ranch?

The LECOM Suncoast Classic looks for those willing to host pro golfers during the tournament at Lakewood National.

Larry Panka and Sue Tankersley share their Country Club home with visiting Korn Ferry Tour golfers because it is their way of giving back to a sport they love.
Larry Panka and Sue Tankersley share their Country Club home with visiting Korn Ferry Tour golfers because it is their way of giving back to a sport they love.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Sue Tankersley and Larry Panka wanted to give back to the sport they loved, so they decided to open their home.

The Lakewood Ranch Country Club couple has hosted Korn Ferry Tour golfers for the past two years.

"You could tell they felt we were doing them a tremendous favor," Panka said. "But golf has presented me a lot of great memories."

"The rewards for hosting are off the charts," Tankersley said. "It allows me to get up close and personal. And I like helping and giving back."

Neither knew that last year they would receive a cooking lesson from the Korn Ferry Tour's spiciest player.

Tankersley was asked by her friend, Kay Scholten, who matches players with those willing to host, if she could not only take on a player, but his parents as well.

She accepted and Alejandro Tosti and his Argentinian parents, who never had seen him play a pro event in the U.S., arrived for a week's stay during the 2023 LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood National Golf Course.

Tosti, self-admittedly has anger issues which eventually led to a rare Korn Ferry Tour suspension in 2023, after he already had qualified to play on the PGA Tour in 2025. Even so, Tankersley and Panka felt he was a tremendous, young man who couldn't have been more cordial during his time in their home. They even have remained friends and continue to trade messages now that he is playing on the PGA Tour.

Despite his fiery reputation, Tosti was laid back, and well, fun, even though he was competing for big money and a PGA Tour spot. Tankersley asked if he wouldn't mind if she had some of her neighborhood friends come by the house to meet him. He embraced the visits with open arms.

One night during his stay, Tosti and his father made empanadas for his hosts.

"I had five," Panka said. "They were so good."

Tosti told them, "I learned how to make them from my father, and now I am the master."

Tankersley and Panka said it was non-stop smiles for a week, even though neither of his parents spoke any English.

"I would tell a joke and our friends would laugh," Tankersley said. "And his parents would have their phones out to interpret, and 10 seconds later, they would laugh. It was so much fun."

It also showed how the experience of hosting changes from year to year. The first year the couple hosted, they had Blayne Barber, a former PGA Tour Player who had won $2.8 million but had fallen off the tour. He was very serious in his attempt to regain his PGA Tour status.

Barber, a devout Christian, would come back from the course and go right to his room, then in the morning would get his workout equipment out of his truck and conduct his morning workout in the driveway. Even so, when he saw Tankersley just before his opening round tee-off time, he made sure to go over and give her a big hug. Things didn't go so well for him as he missed the cut, and he took off for the next stop immediately after the second round.

His caddie was Wyatt Spencer who stayed with the host family another night after Barber left. He was more at ease and a fun guest. Spencer has had some good fortunes this season, hooking up to caddie for Tampa's Jimmy Stanger, a regular participant at the LECOM Suncoast Classic. Stanger already has a t-3 finish on the PGA Tour this season and has earned over $500,000.

Last year, Tosti earned just over $9,500 at the Suncoast Classic and actually tied with Stanger in 22nd place. When Tankersley saw Tosti paying his caddie, she told him she felt bad he didn't make more money. He was quick to respond.

"He said, 'Sue, don't feel bad, my sister is a college graduate and a teacher (in Argentina) and she makes $6,000 in a year. I'm fine.'"

Both Tankersley and Panka have hosted golfers in their homes (they were not together at the time) for other events and they said it has been a great experience every time.

"I am a golfer and I've always done some volunteering," said Tankersley, who is in charge of player dining at this year's LECOM Suncoast Classic. "Once I was the standard bearer (in 1982) for Jan Stephenson at Kings Island (Mason, Ohio). I saw her years later and I went up and said, 'I was your standard bearer.' She looked back and said, 'I won.'"

The home of Tankersley and Panka has two bedrooms and a den. To accommodate Tosti and his parents, Tosti slept on a Murphy bed while his parents took the main guest room.

Tosti, who won the 2023 Korn Ferry Pinnacle Bank Championship (Omaha, Nebraska) has made two cuts in six PGA Tour events this year. He now has a Lakewood Ranch fan club as Tankersley and Panka said all their neighbors who met Tosti are following his career. At 5-foot-6, he was second on the Korn Ferry Tour in driving distance in 2023.

The couple will host a player again this year for the tournament that runs April 18-21. But they said they have no idea who they will have.

Panka offered the following advice for anyone who decides to host a player or a caddie.

"Don't miss it," he said of the opportunity. "And be yourself."

Those who want to find out more about hosting a player should go to the tournament website at or email Tournament Director Justin Kristich at [email protected].



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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