BELLEAIR — The long-awaited, but downsized Pelican Women’s LPGA tournament should not tie up local traffic inside Belleair Township.
That’s the word from town officials who put a letter in each resident’s mailbox in advance of tournament activities, set for Nov. 16-22. The Ladies Professional Golf Association postponed the tourney, which was to be held from May 14-17, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The five-member Belleair Town Commission approved a special permit for a “fan-less” tournament in November with procedures to protect professional golfers, caddies, volunteers, and local residents from COVID-19.
Though thousands of spectators won’t be coming, city officials will still have to manage some vehicle and pedestrian access to the course.
“As a no-spectator event, traffic and parking impacts will be minimal,” the letter states. “Poinsettia Road from the four-way stop to Hibiscus Road will be closed starting on Friday, Nov. 13, but will reopen in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.”
In addition, Poinsettia Road will remain closed at the Pinellas Trail through Nov. 24, at which point it will be reopened to local traffic, said Cathy DeKarz, management analyst for the Town of Belleair.
According to DeKarz, those living on Hibiscus, Cypress, and Poinsettia roads “won’t see much impact because there’s not really any cut-through traffic going through the four-way stop out to Rosery Road at this point.”
As a separate matter, the town may decide to permanently close Poinsettia at the Pinellas Trail, but not in the near future, DeKarz said. The town is still studying the impact of such a closure.
Regarding parking in the residential town, a limited number of players, staff, and members will park at the Pelican Golf Club and along Park Avenue, DeKarz said. Volunteers, caddies, vendors, golf club staff, and invited guests will park outside of town and be brought to the venue via a shuttle.
The dates of road closings bookend the LPGA event to give time to volunteers and workers to set up and break down for the event. Because there are no paying spectators, there will be no need for bleachers and venues for concessions.
Though the tournament is important to the town and its residents, “We are asking the residents for their patience during this time,” DeKarz said. “It will be a great event for the community.”
The town also will allow those who live along the course to watch the event.
“Homeowners living along the course may watch the event from their property,” DeKarz said.
However, homeowners may not walk onto golf club property, as it is still a no-spectator event.
Workers will begin erecting temporary facilities a week before the tournament begins.
Scott Reid, senior vice president of Eiger Marketing, which is producing the event, told commission members that COVID-19 prevention is mission No. 1 at the event.
“We will be working with the LPGA and appropriate agencies to keep everyone safe,” Reid said. “We will create bubbles, if you will, of players, caddies, and key staff that will be COVID-tested on Monday and Tuesday of tournament week. They will then receive wrist bands that identify them as a negative test and will be allowed to resume with their duties.”
According to Reid, who is also executive director of the event, those who are not in a “bubble” will have their temperatures taken before they are allowed to enter the site. If a fever is detected, they won’t be allowed to enter.
“We will follow whatever protocols are at that time — mask wearing, hand washing, hand sanitizer stations, etc.,” Reid said.
The Pelican championship is a 72-hole stroke play tournament that includes practice rounds and a one-day pro-am tournament that allows amateurs to play golf alongside the professionals. The tournament will feature a full field of 108 players competing for a $1.5 million purse, the LPGA said, including Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson, Nelly Korda, Lydia Ko, and longtime fan favorites like Natalie Gulbis, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and others.
Residents who need an exemption to park on one of the streets marked for no parking should contact Ed Luttman of the Belleair Police Department at 727-588-3769, ext. 233.