Sports Tour event coming to Lakewood Ranch is a month out. It now has a title sponsor

The Tour’s first event along the Suncoast has a sponsor.

And just in time.

With a month to go before professional golfers aiming to take a prize and a huge step toward gaining a PGA Tour card arrive at Lakewood Ranch National Golf Club off State Road 70, Tour president Dan Glod announced the event secured a title sponsor and will be known as the LECOM Suncoast Classic, which has a $550,000 purse, in a partnership spanning the next five years.

“I know they’re committed to making this event wildly successful,” Glod said. “They’ve signed on as a five-year title sponsor, which gives us great optimism for at least the next five years. As we like to say, we like partners for life so this is the first five years.”

In addition to the LECOM announcement, Seath Lauer was given the only sponsor’s exemption to play in the tournament, scheduled for Feb. 14-17. Lauer, an Indiana native, played high school golf locally at Lakewood Ranch High before playing collegiately at Florida State University alongside multiple-major winner Brooks Koepka.

“These guys aren’t the minor leagues,” LECOM board member Tom Wedzik said.

Meanwhile, Danny Walker, a fellow Lakewood Ranch High alumnus who starred at the University of Virginia, spoke at Wednesday’s press conference as a fully-exempt Tour player. That was due to him earning medalist honors at December’s Tour Q-School final stage in Arizona.

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Walker said he plans to play in more than 20 events this year, which begins with next week’s season-opener in the Bahamas.

The Suncoast Classic marks the first 2019 Tour event held on American soil as the first four tournaments are in the Bahamas, Colombia and Panama.

“That’s going to be very nice,” Walker said about sleeping in his own bed when he plays the LECOM Suncoast Classic. “To be able to do that, I’m sure I’ll get a good night’s sleep.”

LECOM Suncoast Classic tournament director Justin Kristich said general admission tickets are $10, while weekly passes are $30. Kids ages 17 and younger are free, while complimentary tickets are given to retired or active duty military members and first responders.

Cadillac and Tervis Tumbler locations will also have complimentary tickets, Kristich said. Fans can start purchasing tickets online next week.

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.