Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions to Kick Off 2019 LPGA Season

PHOENIX — The LPGA has announced that its 2019 season will kick off at the new Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions Jan. 17-20 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It’s a significant win for the tour given that this year’s first domestic stop is this week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup. The LPGA hasn’t had a Tournament of Champions since 2007.

Also noteworthy: TV coverage will move to NBC on Saturday and Sunday, with an hour-long Golf Channel lead-in.

Diamond Resorts CEO Mike Flaskey asked LPGA commissioner Mike Whan a simple question: “What’s your party on tour?”

This event answers that question. The new TOC will feature at least 35 winners from the past two seasons on the LPGA, along with 45 celebrity participants and 10 amateurs. The celebrities will compete alongside the professionals for 72 holes. The pros will have a no-cut, stroke-play format while the amateurs will use Modified Stableford scoring. Foursomes will include two celebrities and two LPGA professionals. They’ll compete for a $1.2 million purse.

Diamond Resorts had previously hosted a PGA Tour Champions Challenge Season event at Tranquilo in January that featured celebrities and several LPGA stars who played from the same tees as the men. Flaskey played alongside Brooke Henderson, who tied for seventh at last year’s event. Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang, Gerina Piller and Diamond Resorts ambassador Brittany Lincicome have also competed in the event and played an instrumental role in Flaskey’s decision to turn it into an LPGA showcase.

“One of the things that really jumped out at me was their engagement,” said Flaskey. “They understand the business aspect of a company trying to activate sponsorship and why companies do that compared to others. I saw they would go a little further and the extra mile to engage, whether it’s social media, or coming to the events in the evening.”

Then there’s the competitiveness. Henderson shot 66 in challenging conditions with Flaskey that day.

Winners on tour this year will receive a Tumi backpack, a weeklong stay at a Diamond Resort and a ticket to the TOC.

“When you announce a Florida event at a player meeting, it’s usually a pretty good high-five reaction,” Whan said.

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