Jan. 3, 2018 (ORLANDO, Fla.) – Gerina Piller, carving a popular niche as a late blooming American LPGA star, will make her 2018 season debut at the Diamond Resorts Invitational™ benefiting Florida Hospital for Children, Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida. Pregnant with her first child during the LPGA’s CME Tour Championship in November, it was assumed Piller’s next professional tournament would be in the gallery rooting for her husband, Martin Piller, who plays on the PGA TOUR.
“I’m feeling good and I want to stay sharp, so I’m looking forward to teeing it up against the men, both pros and celebrities,” said Piller. “The unique format of the Diamond Resorts Invitational™ makes it special and it’s important that the LPGA is a key component.”
Nationally televised all three days on Golf Channel, the Diamond Resorts Invitational™ benefits Florida Hospital for Children, recently named one of the top children’s hospitals in the country. The event is recognized as the most unique format in tournament golf, with golf professionals and celebrities competing side-by-side for separate purses totaling $1.25 million. Last year’s event captured the golf world’s imagination, raising curiosity and popularity among media, sponsors and the public to unanticipated levels.
“Gerina is an incredibly talented golfer and we’re excited to have her join us on the course in just a few days,” said Mike Flaskey, Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Resorts International®. “No one expected her to compete this year, so we’re honored she decided to join our field of LPGA stars for the tournament.”
As opposed to today’s younger generation of golf professionals, who started playing as kids and found success in their teenage years, 32-year-old Piller is cut from the old-school cloth. She is an all-around athlete, who excelled in multiple sports before finding her way to golf at age 15. She went on to succeed on the collegiate level and then with the LPGA. Her unique path to success is an exception to the rule in the women’s golf world of today, making her rise through the American ranks a captivating flashback. Her story and route to stardom reflect past stars such as her mentor, Juli Inkster.
Piller turned professional in 2007 and joined the LPGA Tour in 2011. She played in 22 tournaments in 2017, making the cut in 21 with five top 10 finishes, including a third place, earning $541,977 and finishing 34th on the money list. She’s played in the last three Solheim Cups, dropping an 8-foot putt on the 18th hole during the 2015 competition in Germany to stave-off a European victory in an incredible comeback. Piller also represented the U.S. at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, finishing tied for 11th place.
The 2018 Diamond Resorts Invitational™ will feature 28 PGA TOUR Champions players, four LPGA stars: Piller and Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang, and Brooke Henderson (Paula Creamer recently withdrew from the event to provide her surgically repaired wrist additional time to recuperate); and 52 top-tier athletes and entertainment celebrities in two distinct competitions utilizing a Modified Stableford scoring format, which awards points as opposed to strokes – similar to the PGA TOUR’s Barracuda Championship.
Both PGA TOUR Champions and LPGA players will compete for $750,000 over the 54-hole tournament, while the celebrities will play for a $500,000 purse. Threesomes will include one PGA TOUR Champions Tour or LPGA professional and two celebrities. The singular format allows for a distinct competition, as all professionals and celebrities play their own ball and compete from the same tees for 54 holes.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational™ is the PGA TOUR Champions final Challenge Season tournament before the Regular Season opening event the following week, January 19-21 at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii.
Tournament week will begin Thursday, January 11 with the fifth-annual Brian Gay Pro-Am presented by Diamond Resorts International®. Gay, a four-time PGA TOUR winner and longtime Orlando resident, will serve as host of the 18-hole celebrity-amateur competition, which will feature foursomes comprised of three amateurs and one celebrity or PGA TOUR player. An evening dinner and concert at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, one of Diamond Resorts’ flagship resorts in Orlando, will complement Thursday’s events.
Saturday evening will be a highlight of the tournament with a gourmet dinner and concert featuring country music stars Jana Kramer and Cole Swindell, both Diamond Resorts Ambassadors. Previous headliners have featured Jake Owen, Huey Lewis and the News, and Darius Rucker. The accompanying live and silent auctions have helped raised more than $2.3 million for Florida Hospital for Children.
The tournament site, Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Orlando, is unique to Central Florida for its varying elevation, abundant wildlife and protected wetlands. Originally built in 1992 and designed by Tom Fazio, the golf course was enhanced by Fazio for its October 2014 reopening. The course is a par 71 and plays to 6,901 yards.