Ericka Schneider can sleep in her own bed, wake up in her own house and head to the golf course for this week’s LPGA Symetra Tour stop at Sara Bay Country Club.
Ditto for Ginger Howard.
They are part of the Manatee County contingent competing this week.
But for most players in the Sara Bay Classic field, staying at home isn’t an option. Instead, the choice looks like an expensive one at first glance: staying at a hotel.
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Except, there are about 75 players doing something different this week and many other weeks during the 2017 season. They’re staying with a host family for the tournament week.
Brittany Marchand, who is based out of Raleigh, N.C., is in her second LPGA Symetra Tour season and stayed with Cary and Debby Spicuzza for the 2016 tour stop to Manatee County. Marchand was so enamored with her host family last year that she asked the Spicuzzas if fellow competitor and Canadian, Augusta James, could stay with them this year as well.
“If I could put more girls in my home, I would if I had the room,” Debby Spicuzza said.
Marchand estimates she incurred around $25,000 in expenses for her rookie season. That figure, though, pales in comparison to what it costs an LPGA Symetra Tour professional to play the circuit with hotels, a rental car and flights for each event.
Marchand said that can rise to $60,000 on the high end, which means Marchand saved at least 50 percent on expenses in 2016 simply because she chose to drive her own car, not fly and stay with host families.
“Financially, it’s a huge cost saver,” Marchand said. “You’re looking at saving yourself a hundred bucks a night every week. So it’s a really, really huge help. Usually, the families are so awesome and sometimes they cook you dinner.”
At this week’s tournament, the Friends of Sara Bay & It’s Members coordinates with players and the LPGA Symetra Tour for the host family housing option.
A host family could have one or more players staying with them for the week.
50Percent saved in expenses (estimated) for Brittany Marchand by driving her own car and staying with host families
Bradenton’s Mike and Dee Bennett took in four players this year, while Don and April Greenwood are housing Daniela Iacobelli, who started housing with them in 2015.
The Greenwoods have two golden retrievers, who flocked to Iacobelli on Wednesday morning.
“I was laying in bed and they both jumped in,” she said. “So awesome.”
In addition to the perks of meeting new people across the United States, players also develop a second family relationship with their hosts during tournament weeks.
75Amount of players this week staying with host families
Marchand’s host family at the South Bend, Ind., stop, Don and Lorna Zerfas, were visiting Florida recently. On their trek north, they drove past Winter Haven and watched Marchand during the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic on March 10-12.
“It’s nice sometimes to have cheerleaders out there,” Marchand said.
Iacobelli, who is from Detroit and lives in Melbourne now, echoed Marchand in having her host families giving her game a boost with cheering during tournament rounds.
Like Marchand, her host families also keep in touch and track her progress.
“Because we go to such different towns, the type of people are so eclectic,” Iacobelli said. “But in the golfing community, everyone’s generally the same. Just good people wanting to help out. They love women’s golf.”
Neither Marchand nor Iacobelli said they’ve had a bad experience with host families.
Marchand said she sent Christmas cards to each family this past year, and she gives personalized gifts as a way to say thanks for each family allowing her to stay with them.
And having a second family during tournament weeks just adds to the experience of playing the developmental Symetra Tour in preparation for a possible LPGA Tour future.
“I didn’t have one bad experience out of all the tournaments I stayed in,” Marchand said. “All my families are super nice. I’d go back to every single one of them.”