LPGA golf tournament preparation a large task in Belleair

Ryan Dever, the LPGA tournament organizer, speaks to the logistics task force in Belleair. Also attending are Ladies Professional Golf Association official Kyle Draper, left, and volunteer coordinator Sam Mok, center.

BELLEAIR — The planners for the local LPGA tournament knew it would be a handful; now, how much of a handful is beginning to become clear.

A meeting of the special logistical task force Nov. 13 uncovered the work that has to be done and when it must be finished.

The Pelican Women’s Championship, a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament, will be held at the Pelican Golf Club from May 11-17.

Preparations are daunting because of the number of people expected to attend, and the quality of the course and amenities that must be met.

“More than 50,000 people are expected to attend,” said Ryan Dever, the tournament manager. “On the weekend over 6,000 people are expected each day and that means things have to run smoothly.”

Most of the top 100 players on the circuit are expected to attend, he said.

The biggest challenge facing the group will be to figure out how to move so many people in and out of the tournament and making sure the vendors are properly situated.

Dever said they have decided to make the main entrance to the property at the corner of Poinsettia Road and Golf View Drive. It will be the only entrance to the tournament and where the vendors will be set up and promotional signs and other material will be situated.

Inside there will be bleachers at the first tee and the 18th hole, where ceremonies will be held

“We have to accommodate different types of fans who will be coming that week,” said Dever. “There are the roaming fans who will follow a particular golfer all around the course. Then there are those who like to sit still and watch the golfers tee off, and finally those who want a seat at the 18th to see the golfers finish.”

All that means is roped off areas have to be established to keep the spectators off the course so as not to interfere with the players.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the organizers is getting enough volunteers to work for the week. Six hundred will be needed.

Sam Mok of Eiger Consulting Group is in charge of getting those volunteers.

“We already have 200 volunteers,” she said. “This tournament, or any tournament, just could not happen without volunteers. This is a good way for people to give back to their community and for some a good item to put on their resume.”

Mok, with the help of the local task force, has to find volunteers to be marshals, standard bearers and walking scorers. Others are needed to assist with transportation, hospitality and a variety of smaller jobs.

The tournament, similar to other professional tournaments including those on the men’s Professional Golfer’s Association tour, charges volunteers for the opportunity. So a prospective volunteer must be prepared to pay $55 before the end of March or $65 after that to volunteer. There are some perks: volunteers receive a parking pass, a free shirt, a party and a free round of golf.

Other work that must be accomplished is to round up sponsors for the event. The total purse for the tournament is $1.75 million and the organizers say the economic impact to the area will be more than $15 million.

The event schedule was released at the meeting, and it is following the standard for most tournaments.

There are closed practices on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is the pro-am round, where local golfers can pay to play with the pros. The actual tournament gets under way on Thursday and runs through Sunday. With 144 golfers expected to participate, the cut after Friday’s round is expected to be in the low 70s and will eliminate half the field.

The task force members were concerned about the tournament interfering with the day-to-day lives of the residents whose homes border the golf course. Dever said there would be no fences built along the perimeter of the course so the neighbors’ views will not be obstructed. And he said every resident whose property borders the golf course will get four free tickets to attend the tournament on the day of their choosing. He also said there will be security on site throughout the week.