For a brief time last fall, the Chubb Classic of the PGA Tour Champions was a golf tournament without a home. That happened when the 32-year February stop in Naples learned the membership of The Club at Twin Eagles, which had hosted the tournament the prior 12 years, had cut ties with the event.
Tournament organizers turned to The Classics at Lely Resort Golf and Country Club, which had previously hosted the tournament, with the opportunity to return to the private course in south Naples. That left the membership and management of The Classics with a decision: would the benefits of preparing the course as a tournament venue, closing it to member play for a period of time and all the work required to hold the event, be worth it?
And by the way, have only four months to pull it all together.
“It was a relatively short window when you consider all the necessary details that need to be tended to in order to host an event of that size from site plan coordination and any type of permitting required, and the PGA Tour Champions agronomy team coming down to see the course would stand up to the test of the pros,” says David Leverant, general manager of Lely Resort and regional manager of golf course management company American Golf.
After securing unanimous approval of the membership advisory board, Leverant took the offer to Century Golf Partners, the private equity investment arm of Arnold Palmer Golf Management Company, which is affiliated with American Golf. With an agreement reached, the enormous task of organizing logistics that most tournaments work on for a year in advance immediately commenced in association with Octagon Sports, which facilitates the tournament for the PGA Tour.
The tournament went on as scheduled Feb. 11-17 with no apparent indication of a rush job, thanks in large part to the ability to leverage the existing and long-standing local tournament volunteer network.
Was it worth it?
'Typically, in hosting a tournament, it's not money, but what you do get from the club standpoint is the national recognition and the validation of your club.' David Leverant, The Classics at Lely Resort
“We are working on that right now,” says Leverant of a potential agreement to continue hosting the tournament. “The title sponsor Chubb, Octagon and the Tour want to come back. It’s just a matter of getting the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.”
Contrary to popular perception, Leverant says, golf clubs are not directly enriched by hosting a professional golf tournament. The benefits, he says, are more intangible than directly financial. In the case of The Classics, it’s an older club, the resort community is effectively built out and membership is firmly established. Still, raising the national profile of The Classics and Lely Resort Golf and Country Club — which also offers two public golf courses — carries significant residual benefit.
“Typically, in hosting a tournament, it's not money, but what you do get from the club standpoint is the national recognition and the validation of your club,” he says. “That translates into interest and membership sales, and that’s how we directly benefit from a financial standpoint. It’s hard to put a number on it, but the positives for holding the tournament have really exceeded our expectations.”
Less tangible is the heightened perception of Lely Resort, which has some 5,000 homes in 43 gated communities. Most of the club’s membership is comprised of the community’s residents. Pride in hosting the event and the validation of the club, Leverant says, enhances unity within the community and places it on the national stage over three days of television broadcasts, which can be beneficial to home property values and resales.
All of which applies validity to the financial and manpower investment required to host a professional golf tournament. "You more than make that back up," says Leverant, "when you market it correctly and work in unison with the Tour and you benefit in having that PGA Tour logo on your website and media posts."