Sarasota County agrees to chip in with Manatee County on a PGA proposal
Two counties commit at least $9 million to support the 2031 championship if it’s awarded to The Concession in Lakewood Ranch.
With a letter evoking Sarasota’s connection to the birthplace of golf, County Commissioners this week agreed to add at least $3 million to a two-county promise supporting a major professional championship in Lakewood Ranch if organizers award the event to the area.
Commissioners without discussion voted unanimously to join Manatee County in pursuing the 2031 PGA Championship – one of the sport’s four majors – which would be played in May at Lakewood Ranch’s The Concession.
Sarasota County’s contribution of “a minimum of $3 million,’’ along with Manatee’s previous $6 million commitment, would only be spent if the PGA Tour adds the local club on the schedule for the sport’s second major tournament of the 2031 season.
Elliott Falcione, the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said if the PGA does not select the area – a decision likely to be made in November – “not a nickle’’ of the agreed-to funding would be spent.
In a letter of support for the proposal, Commission Chair Ron Cutsinger touched on Sarasota’s legacy with the sport.
“Sarasota County has a rich history of golf going back to 1885 when John Hamilton Gillespie arrived in Sarasota from Scotland. Gillespie became Sarasota’s first Mayor and laid out 18 holes of golf which many claim was the first golf course in America. Over the years, golf history has been made here from a famous match between young Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, LPGA Classic, 13 Champions PGA Tour events and the 2015 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Golf Championships,’’ he wrote to Kerry Haigh, the chief championships officer of the PGA of America.
Nicole Rissler, Sarasota County’s director of parks, recreation and natural resources, told commissioners the figure of at least $3 million was available in promotions funding from tourist development tax revenue, largely raised through hotel rooms and short-term rentals.
Locations for the tournament have been set through 2030 in Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, New Jersey and Maryland. The PGA Championship has been played twice in Florida – 1987 and 1971, both in Palm Beach Gardens.
Before her recent retirement from Visit Sarasota County, President Virginia Haley wrote in a letter asking for the county’s support that the 2023 PGA Championship, played in Rochester, N.Y., was responsible for a $190 million economic impact. Greater Rochester Enterprise estimated 225,000 spectators attended, with about 39% arriving from more than 100 miles away.
The Concession in 2021 hosted a World Golf Championship event that had originally been scheduled in Mexico, but was moved because of COVID-19 travel concerns. It drew 47 of the world’s top 50 players.
In December, the course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin is scheduled to play host to the World Champions Cup, an international event for senior professionals.
Eric Garwood is the executive editor of the Community News Collaborative. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org