A month ago, the LPGA’s top players were in Southwest Florida. In February, many of them will return, this time to Fort Myers for the first time in 47 years.
The LPGA Drive On Championship, which was held in Ocala in March 2021 and won by Austin Ernst, is planned to return to Crown Colony Golf Club from February 3-5, 2022.
The contract hasn’t been signed yet, according to general manager David Kent, but it is in the process of being revised.
“It’s on the horizon,” Kent, who has been with the team since June 2020, added. “It’s simply not official yet,” says the narrator.
The event’s arrival in Fort Myers was first announced by Golf Channel.
The tournament is listed on the LPGA website, with the location “Southwest Florida” and a purse of $1.5 million.
Since 2012, the CME Group Tour Championship has been held in Naples, and since 2013, it has been held at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. On Nov. 21, Jin Young Ko won the competition, taking home a $1.5 million first-place prize.
“Obviously, they’re always in Naples,” Kent added. “We’re ecstatic they’ve arrived.”
There will be no gallery or ticket sales for the Fort Myers event. Members of the Crown Colony will be permitted to participate in the 120-player event, which will not include a pro-am. It will also be streamed only on the Golf Channel or NBC’s Peacock service, rather than being broadcast on television.
The schedule for the weekend of February 3-5 is Thursday through Saturday. On Monday, Jan. 31, there will be a Monday qualifier, but the following two days will be practice rounds only. For the final round, the field will be reduced to the top 70 players and ties.
In 2020, the LPGA will hold two Drive On Championships identical to this one to fill gaps in the schedule caused by the coronavirus epidemic, which will prevent play in some areas of Asia and Australia in 2020 and earlier this year. This tournament covers a void in the tour’s schedule before it heads to Singapore and Thailand in March.
The Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio in Boca Raton, Florida, will be followed by the Fort Myers tournament the following week. It also creates a three-tournament Florida swing, with the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Orlando from Jan. 20-23 kicking off the tour’s 2022 season.
The Greater Fort Myers Classic, held at Lochmoor Country Club in 1974 and 1975, was the last LPGA event held in Fort Myers. In 1974, left-handed Bonnie Bryant won, and in 1975, Sandra Haynie won in a playoff against Pat Bradley. Haynie also won the Naples Lely LPGA Classic the following year.
Kent said he received an email from Geoff Lofstead, executive director of the South Florida PGA Section, a month ago asking whether the club would be interested in talking about hosting an LPGA Tour tournament. The conversation with Andy Bush, a partner at Outlyr, which took over the LPGA events previously organized by Octagon during the last year and also owns and organizes the PGA Tour Champions’ Chubb Classic in Naples, only developed from there.
An LPGA agronomist was expected to visit the club on Monday, according to Kent.
“Obviously, we’re pleased to assist the tour,” Kent added. “Knowing that this is a one-of-a-kind event, this is a fantastic opportunity to continue raising awareness of the club and the brand.”
“Given the constraints, we were fortunate that the week on our club schedule didn’t contain anything important that would have prevented us from hosting.” It’s a fantastic opportunity to host the world’s greatest female golfers on such short notice.”
The Crown Colony board, according to Kent, was “very supportive.”
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