By RENALDO DORSETT
THE sports tourism sector continues to garner attention from the international golf community with a pair of new events planned to join the schedule.
The 2017 Web.com Tour season will open with two events hosted in the Bahamas next month over the course of a three-week stretch – The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic (January 5-11) at Sandals Emerald Bay, and The Bahamas Abaco Classic (January 19-25) at The Abaco Club.
The events will be held in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and BD Global LLC.
Both tournaments will feature 132-player fields and $600,000 purses, with the winner of each receiving a $108,000 first-place prize.
Event stakeholders said they expect the event to serve both the international golf community and the host islands through outreach projects.
Brooks Downing, president of BD Sports Global, said plans are underway to build lasting relationships within those communities to the benefit of Bahamians.
“We’re right now working with local schools on both islands to make it a community service event. In addition we will start implementing clinics to have some participation,” he said, “We need to do a little bit more vetting of the talent level on the islands because we would love to get the new golfers out playing in exhibition and clinics with our pro golfers. We will start with these initiatives in year one, and by years two and three it should grow exponentially.”
Dan Glod, C.O.O and Senior Vice President, Web.com Tour said: “The PGA Tour, our model is that we’re a membership based organisation so we focus on generating as much money as we can for charity so we’re not for profit. When we come to these islands, to Abaco and to Exuma, our goal is to bring these professionals and have an economic impact on the islands but or goal is also to leave the communities with an experience that really impacts the people there. That is a shared vision.”
Including the TOUR-sanctioned Hero World Challenge and the LPGA’s Pure Silk Bahamas Classic (contested the week after The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic), The Bahamas is now host to four professional golf tournaments on the game’s upper tier, which is more than all but three states in the U.S. – California, Texas and Florida.
Joy Jibrilu, Director General of Tourism, said the Bahamas has cemented its status as a marquee golf destination and it continues to grow in stature with each event.
“We want the world to know that the Bahamas is the leading golf destination in the Caribbean. I don’t think there is any other country that can boast of the fact of the multiplicity of world-class golf courses and events as we do here,” she said, “ Another important thing is exposure. The golf channel, will air these two major events to 78 million households in the US and internationally. That’s to over 150 million households in 150 different countries and territories. There’s value in that.”
Sandals Emerald Bay, which was given the prestigious Six Star Diamond Award, is one of 23 properties in seven countries under the Sandals Resorts International umbrella. Voted the Caribbean’s Best Golf Hotel, Sandals Emerald Bay located in Great Exuma, Bahamas, features a Greg Norman-designed 18-hole golf course.
The Abaco Club, which is owned and managed by U.S.-based Southworth Development, will serve as host venue for The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic. Southworth, a leader in the creation of residential resort and hospitality-branded real estate communities and clubs, manages properties in the United States, the United Kingdom and The Bahamas.
The golf course, which is the island club and residency of European Ryder Cup team captain Darren Clarke, is annually ranked as the top course in The Bahamas and will be one of the premier venues on the Web.com Tour schedule, with a links course that plays along both scenic Winding Bay and The Atlantic Ocean.
The events will kick off the Web.com Tour’s 28th season, where 25 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded at the conclusion of the Regular Season, with an additional 25 awarded at the season-ending, four-event Web.com Tour Finals.
The Web.com Tour is the path to the PGA TOUR, with 451 victories coming from former Tour players – including 22 major championships.
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