MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- This past weekend was a record-setting weekend as far as sports tourism on the Suncoast was concerned. And the Symetra tour stop in Sarasota had a big hand in that record.
For the 2nd year in a row, the Guardian Retirement Championship was a thriller, and Sara Bay Country Club's general manager, Paul Barone, was thrilled, since it is just the 3rd year of the women's tournament.
“I just think it’s great for Sarasota golf. They just have some of the best women players in the world and they come out to play the golf course once a year. We have seen more spectators year in and year out," says Barone.
After a rough start due to heavy rain and high winds in 2012, the golf on the course has been scintillating, and the business end of it has been growing. "Last year was in the high 3,000s, and this year was even better with such a busy sports weekend on the Suncoast."
To Barone, there is no better place in the country to hold a golf tournament, so the annual growth has been -- excuse the pun -- par for the course.
Guardian has already extended their title sponsorship through 2017. "I just think it is great for golf in the area. Our junior golfers can come out to see some of the best women players in the world."
Sara Bay is a Donald Ross designed course, which this year has an added benefit. “This year the U.S. Open, both men's and women's, will be played at Pinehurst #2, which is also a Donald Ross course. If they can play well here, they have a great opportunity to go to Pinehurst and have success there."
Every year, the winner of the Guardian Championship has gone on to play in the LPGA the next year.