The LPGA Symetra Tour recently released its preliminary 2018 schedule, and one tournament that’s been a stalwart for Manatee County since 2012 wasn’t listed.
With Guardian pulling out as the title sponsor after the 2016 Symetra Tour stop at Sara Bay Country Club, the warning signs for the tour and event leaving the area began.
“Our second of a three-year contract was up at the end of last year’s (tournament),” Sara Bay head pro Daren King said. “And they weren’t on the same page with the LPGA.”
Guardian, a financial company, has new rules and regulations that no longer allow use of its name as a sponsor for athletic events, King said.
“So they tried to opt out ... which is why it went back to the Sara Bay Classic last year,” King said.
That said, the preliminary 2018 schedule has Guardian as the title sponsor for a September tournament in Alabama.
Even without Guardian, there was hope the tournament could return to Sara Bay, considering the rave reviews the course and the Bradenton-Sarasota area received from players.
A difficult course, the Donald Ross-designed track produced a stern test for players on the Symetra Tour vying for a promotion to the LPGA Tour for the following season.
However, with Guardian backing out and a lack of potential sponsors stepping forward, the writing was on the wall well before the preliminary schedule was announced last week.
“We haven’t heard much from them in a while,” King said.
Even with the Symetra Tour wanting to return to Sara Bay without Guardian, there wasn’t a guarantee it would happen.
King said he would have to take the LPGA’s offer to the Sara Bay board of directors to get approval.
There is a silver lining to the tournament leaving Sara Bay — the club built in the 1920s is undergoing a renovation in May to restore the course to the original Donald Ross design.
“It just lets our members continue to play all the way up until the end of (April),” King said.
Even without the local tournament, there are four Symetra Tour events scheduled for Florida in 2018 – in Clearwater, Daytona Beach, Longwood and Winter Haven.