LPGA tournament coming to Belleair next year

At a news conference to announce plans for the LPGA event at the Pelican Golf Club are, from left, Peter Ripa, chief executive of the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego; Brittany Altomare and Nelly Korda, LPGA tour players; Mike Whan, LPGA commissioner; and Dan Doyle Jr., co-owner of the Pelican Golf Club. Ripa will be running the tournament at the Belleair club May 11-17.

BELLEAIR — A world-class sporting event is about to come to Belleair. The LPGA has announced that in 2020 a new tournament will be added to the tour and will be held at the newly refurbished Pelican Golf Club.

Ladies Professional Golf Association officials came to town on July 8 to make the announcement.

“Golf fans can look forward to seeing the best female players on the planet being tested by the world-class venue in the Pelican Golf Club,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan in a press release. “We could not be happier with the partnership that brings together the LPGA, the Doyle family, DEX imaging and the Pelican Golf Club.”

The Doyle family, former owners of DEX Imaging, the major sponsor of the event, also own the Pelican Golf Club. The club is still in the midst of a complete renovation, with the main clubhouse still under construction. An official of the club said the work will be finished in time for the May 2020 event.

The LPGA holds tour events all over the world. One prominent golfer on the tour is Brittany Lincicome, originally of Seminole and now living in Gulfport. She has been among the top money-winners in the past and among her eight wins on the tour are two major events, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2009 and the ANA Inspirational in 2015.

Lincicome just gave birth to a baby girl, so it isn’t known if she will be back on tour by May.

However, the organizers promise that other top female golfers will be competing at the 2020 Pelican Women’s Championship. They will be competing for a share of a $1.7 million purse.

“When we embarked on the complete renovation of the Pelican Golf Club, we did so with the goal of bringing the best of professional golf to the Tampa area,” said Dan Doyle Jr., co-owner of the club. “We are honored and excited to welcome the finest golfers in the world to our championship course for next year’s inaugural event.”

Belleair Commissioner Tom Kurey, who attended the July 8 news conference, said he is excited by the announcement.

“I think it is going to be great for Belleair,” he said. “I think we’ll have a lot of support from the community. It is a chance to showcase our town and not only Belleair, but the surrounding area — Clearwater, Tampa, all over.”

Kurey said he wouldn’t have thought that two years ago, when the Doyles bought the club, that it would turn into this.

“It is hard to believe that in this two-year period it has gone from an average-condition golf course to this one, which is of such condition that it can host this event,” he said. “I didn’t expect it and I’m sure you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who did expect this.”

Hundreds if not thousands of golf fans can be expected to show up during the week of the tournament. Those fans are going to require parking, food and accommodations. Looking after their needs can be a daunting task.

Kurey admitted that there is plenty of work to be done logistically in the next ten months.

“The town will do everything it can to make sure this is a positive experience,” he said. “We’re going to have to work with the event management company and the Pelican to make sure things work as smoothly as possible. The Police Department and the town will make sure it is a smooth and safe event for all those involved.”

The renovated course has been open for months and has already been deemed playable by LPGA standards.

For now, the agreement is just for 2020 with the possibility of having it become an annual event. The dates for the inaugural Pelican Women’s Championship are May 11-17.