Golf

Golf | Your guide to the LPGA Symetra Tour's Sara Bay Classic

MANATEE

There are plenty of reasons to visit Sara Bay Country Club for this week's LPGA Symetra Tour Sara Bay Classic.

From the historic grounds of the Donald Ross-designed course to the opportunity to get a glimpse of the future of women's professional golf and everything in between, it is the marquee sports event in Manatee County this weekend.

"If you like professional sports, it's your chance to see 144 of the best women's golfers in the world," Sara Bay general manager Paul Barone said. "You get out in fresh air, sunshine and beautiful surroundings at Sara Bay. And there's food and beverage available. It's just a nice way to spend the weekend."

So without delay, here's your guide to watching the 54-hole tournament that begins Friday in southern Manatee County:

Where to go

Pairings sheets are available at no charge so fans

can find out when their favorite players tee off each round.

Like most older courses -- Sara Bay was built in 1926 -- many holes run side by side with greens and tee boxes close together. That makes it walker-friendly for players and caddies, as well as the fans.

There are a couple ideal locations to see players navigate the course.

n First, a spot near the fourth green allows spectators to watch players putt on the fourth hole and seventh hole and still see other pros tee off at nos. 5 and 8.

n Another key spot to set up shop for the day is near the 16th tee box, where players tee off both No. 16 and No. 14. You also can see players on the 15th green, while accessing concessions and rest rooms right by the 15th green.

n You also can spot players warming up on the practice green and driving range by the clubhouse. Players also will use the Suncoast Golf Center near the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport for its bigger practice range. Sara Bay's range isn't large enough for players to use their drivers.

Tickets

The admission price is $10 per person, and a pass for all three tournament rounds goes for $25. The ticket proceeds go to the All-Faiths Food Bank. Children 17 and younger can enter for free with a ticket-holding adult. There are some provisions, though, for what you can bring. No cameras, radios, signs, coolers, cell phones or pets are allowed on the course.

In case of inclement weather, there will be weather alerts.

Concessions

There are two places to find affordable food and beverages.

The aforementioned concession stand near the 15th green and 16th tee box offers drinks and snacks such as granola bars, candy bars and assorted chips. The main concession stand is between the clubhouse, putting green and tee boxes for nos. 1 and 10. That area offers mesquite grilled chicken breasts, angus burgers and all-beef hot dogs as well as beverages and other snack items. Prices range from $6 (grilled chicken breast) to $1 (assorted chips).

Parking

There is no charge for parking. The lone spectator lot is at Whitfield Presbyterian Church. Those traveling south on U.S. 41 must make a left onto Magellan Drive, then a right onto Jungle Way. There will be signs posted to help navigate to the grass lots at the church. From there, a shuttle service operating between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. will take spectators to the course about a half-mile away.

Miscellaneous

Play begins at 8 a.m. each day. The 144-player field will be cut down to the low 70 and ties following Saturday's action. Standard bearers will be with the last three groups Saturday and Sunday to provide scores. The main scoreboard is by the pro shop and No. 9 green. Two leaderboards are at the 17th and 18th holes. The one on No. 18 is off the left side of the green.

Autograph seekers should follow protocol found on sarabayclassic.com for guidelines. Typically, players coming off their final hole (No. 10 or 18) can be reached for autographs. They also may be available to sign after they leave the scoring tent following the round. Do not approach players during their rounds.

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