It combines the best of what fans want this time of year.
For decades, golfers in snow-covered parts of the Northern Hemisphere have survived winter by living vicariously through the pros they saw on television. And for years, those pros launched the new year at tournaments of champions, where an elite group of winners squared off to kickstart the season. That was followed closely by celebrity events, where pros played alongside everyone from Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jackie Gleeson and Glen Campbell to more modern stars like Bill Murray and Darius Rucker. Those tournaments and the larger-than-life personalities who played in them were as comforting to golf fans as wool socks and a warm fire.
This year, thanks to Diamond Resorts International and Insurance Office of America, the LPGA is combining elements of both those formats into the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions Presented by IOA. With a field consisting of winners from the previous two LPGA seasons playing alongside a group of well-known celebrities, including athletes, actors and musicians, who will compete in a separate tournament-within-a-tournament for $500,000 in prize money, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions combines all the elements of what fans have grown to love with new and intriguing twists.
For starters, the LPGA hasn’t had a tournament with a field limited to immediate past champions in over a decade. So, simply renewing an event that rewards those players who closed out a victory in the previous two seasons elevates the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. These are not only the best female players in the world, they are the ones playing the best.
“The reason we love the LPGA is because we had the opportunity to be the title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions,” said Mike Flasky, the CEO of Diamond Resorts International. “I believe our company is the perfect fit to sponsor the tournament of champions. From our standpoint at Diamond Resorts, we love being associated with winners like (the past champions of the LPGA Tour).”
The origins of the tournament go back to 2013 when Diamond Resorts, with the help of PGA Tour player Brian Gay, sponsored a small tournament to raise money for Florida Hospital for Children. More than 300 players, celebrities and fans showed up. In 2014, the event added professionals and grew even larger. That’s when Flasky knew he had a hit on his hands.
In 2016, the tournament became the Diamond Resorts Invitational and was televised on Golf Channel. And in 2017, it was part of the PGA Tour Champions Series with 27 PGA Tour Champions players, 3 LPGA players and 48 celebrities.
Those years, 2016 and 2017, the LPGA players in the field changed Flasky’s thinking. “When I had the opportunity to meet Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson, who have played in our golf tournament in the past, I saw another level of fan engagement, social media engagement and sponsor engagement,” Flasky said. “That was something that attracted me to the LPGA. It is critical for us (at Diamond Resorts) to engage with a brand like the LPGA that understands engagement.”
So, not only is every LPGA player who tees off in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions a winner, the sponsors, celebrities and fans are winners as well…all before the inaugural victor is crowned.