Champions event debuts next year
BY TOM MACKIN — Summer 2018
esides the warmer temperatures, you now have another reason to book a trip to Florida come this winter. The LPGA plays in 15 countries this year, but its 2019 schedule will kick off about 75 miles southwest of Tour headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., with the recently unveiled Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Scheduled for Jan. 17-20, play will unfold at Tranquilo Golf Club at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando in Lake Buena Vista.
The limited field for the new 72-hole stroke-play event will feature winners of LPGA tournaments from the previous two seasons. While the pros compete for a $1.2 million purse, 45 celebrities will play by their sides in a modified stableford format with their own $500,000 purse. Golf Channel will televise the first two rounds, with coverage of the final two rounds on NBC. The tournament week will also include special events and concerts.
“The opportunity came about to bring our existing Diamond Resorts Invitational [started in 2013 with amateurs, celebrities, and post-golf concerts] to network TV starting next year, so we thought it deserved a competitive golf event on the professional side,” says Mike Flaskey, Diamond’s chief executive officer.
LPGA winners who have already qualified for the tournament include Tour stars Brooke Henderson, Brittany Lincicome, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, and Michelle Wie. “Obviously it’s serious: We’re playing for a lot of money, and there are points to be won for the season. But it’s just a nice laid-back event to kick the season off,” Lincicome says.
Not Familiar With Diamond Resorts?
Founded in 2007, the Las Vegas-based hospitality company manages more than 100 resorts across North America and Europe, such as the Cabo Azul Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, and the Ka’anapali Beach Club in Maui, Hawaii. Diamond Resorts members use their vacation ownership points to book the properties, but nonmembers can make reservations, too.
The company recently expanded its U.S. offerings by acquiring the Amber Vacation Club, which includes Sunrise Ridge Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Alhambra Villas and Alhambra at Poinciana resort in Kissimmee, Fla.; and the Modern Honolulu in Waikiki.
Through Diamond’s affiliate agreements, its members can also use their points to book other resorts, cruises, vacation experiences, and events — such as the Diamond Resorts Concert Series — in more than 300 destinations in the U.S. and around the world. 800-438-2929; diamondresorts.com
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