ORLANDO, Fla – In January, the LPGA will be getting its party on.
When LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan was asked if there is one week on the season’s schedule that he would consider a party, he couldn’t name one. That’s where Diamond Resorts CEO Mike Flaskey comes in.
That was the very question Flaskey posed to Whan when the two met to discuss the possibility of teaming up for a new event on the LPGA Tour schedule.
“I don’t know that we have a great party on Tour,” Whan recalled telling him.
“Well, you do now,” Flaskey told him.
The party is coming in January in the form of a new season-opening event, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by IOA. The limited field event features 36 players, all of which were winners during the 2017 or 2018 seasons. They’ll compete in a 72-hole stroke-play event for a $1.2 million purse and will spend the week mingling with actors, musicians and celebrity athletes who will competed alongside them during the four day event. The celebrities will compete amongst themselves in a modified Stableford scoring format for $500,000. Outside the ropes, the week features multiple concerts, an auction and gala.
Sounds like quite the party.
Monday, Whan and Flaskey along with the LPGA’s Brittany Lincicome and Pernilla Lindberg, as well as baseball’s Roger Clemens and musician Colt Ford, met with the media at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando, which will host the season opener.
“There’s an element of fun and an element of competition,” Flaskey said about the new event.
Lincicome, who is a Diamond Resorts ambassador, has a unique perspective as one of the few LPGA professionals who has competed in this event before. For the last two years, the event was part of the PGA Tour Champions. Lincicome was one of a handful of LPGA professionals to compete in the event, thanks to a sponsor invite. Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson, Brittany Lang and Gerina Piller also made appearances during those two years.
“It’s fun to hang out with celebrities,” Lincicome told LPGA.com. “If you play well, great. If not you’re like ‘oh I’m just knocking the rust off.’ So, you kinda get a get out of jail free card if you don’t play well.”
Lincicome used the event as a springboard to back-to-back victories at the LPGA’s former season opener, the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. Although the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions is now an official one on the LPGA’s schedule, with official money on the line, Lincicome is not going to treat the event any different than she has in the past. And she’s sharing that advice with her fellow pros that are getting to enjoy the experience for the first time.
“It’s just a wonderful tune up,” Lincicome told LPGA.com. “You come and hang out with celebrities you’d never get to see, you go to the concerts. It’s so fun.”
Monday, Lindberg got a taste for the first time of what a Diamond Resorts event is like as she sat next to Clemens during the press conference. But for Lindberg, who grew up in Sweden, she admitted to not being very familiar with athletes in the United States. Instead, she is more excited at the opportunity to get to meet Alfonso Ribeiro, who she grew up watching play Carlton on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
“It’ll be my first time [competing with celebrities] and I’m sure it’ll be the same way for a lot of the LPGA girls out there,” Lindberg told LPGA.com. “But, just based on what the other girls said the last few years it sounds like it’s going to be a fun week.”
It won’t just be fun. It’s going to be a real party.