The Web.com Tour is bringing a golf tournament to Lakewood Ranch
About two years ago, the Web.com Tour started looking into the Suncoast market for a future tournament.
In 2017, Lakewood Ranch National Golf Club came into existence and into focus for Web.com Tour officials.
On Monday, officials announced the arrival of the inaugural Suncoast Classic, which takes place Feb. 14-17, 2019, at Lakewood National Golf Club, during a press conference at the Powel-Crosley Estate.
"Our objectives here are exactly what the objectives are for everyone in this room," Web.com Tour president Dan Glod said. "From Lennar (Homes) trying to drive tourism, to drive economic development and, of course, for Icon (Management) and a great facility. We want to be great partners, and we want to use this golf tournament as a platform to make everyone aware of this great area."
Tour officials did not specify the full list of contending courses in the area to host a Web.com Tour event. However, Glod said it was the usual suspects, confirming The Concession Golf Club, Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club and Sara Bay Country Club were potential landing spots for the tournament.
The tournament is under a five-year contract for the area, which has a long history of holding professional tour events.
The Champions Tour ran an event under various title sponsors at Sarasota's TPC Prestancia for many years in the 1990s.
The LPGA Tour held a tournament at Sarasota's Bent Tree Country Club during the 1980s, an event that saw Hall of Fame member Nancy Lopez win.
Most recently, Manatee County's Palm-Aire Country Club and Sara Bay Country Club held tour events.
Palm-Aire held the Handa Cup, a Legends Tour event, for one year, while Sara Bay held the LPGA Symetra Tour's Guardian Retirement Championship for several years.
The Symetra Tour, however, pulled out of the area after the 2017 event.
Web.com Tour officials don't want a short stay.
"We want to play here forever," Glod said.
The Web.com Tour holds 27 events each season, with 12 tournaments televised.
For those unfamiliar with the tour, it's a developmental tour right below the PGA Tour. The top players from the Web.com Tour's season feed into the PGA Tour as next season's card-carrying members.
The broadcasting aspect of an event tends to produce the biggest cost burden, which would put more emphasis on securing a title sponsor.
"We start an event and there's no television on it," Glod said. "We've got a lot of local companies engaged in the event, and then it grows. And it's a sustainable property. And sometimes it develops into ... a single-title sponsor or multiple partners."
Glod said if there's enough funding, then TV can be added to the mix.
A key aspect to the Web.com Tour's involvement over the next five years is tournament director Justin Kristich.
He's lived locally for the past decade and previously worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.
"We need to get the ball rolling quickly," Kristich said. "So I can get a little bit of a head start, I know some people and can get the conversation started (for sponsorship)."
Tickets for the inaugural event cost $10. The tournament purse is $550,000 and features a field of 156 players.
After a brief hiatus, professional golf is back in Manatee County. Returning the area means a lot to golf fans, with one explaining what it meant to Kristich.
"This is something the community deserves," Kristich said.