LPGA stars Brittany Altomare (left) and Nelly Korda.

The LPGA in Tampa Bay: The Pelican Women’s Championship moves to November

The 1-year-old Pelican Golf Club in Belleair was scheduled to have its big coming-out party next month as the host course for the Pelican Women’s Championship. The party’s been delayed a bit; due to safety concerns during the pandemic, the tournament has been rescheduled to Nov. 9-15. But no matter the date, this will be a major event in local sports annals — the first LPGA tournament to take place in Tampa Bay since the last St. Petersburg Women’s Open in 1989.

Some of the biggest names in women’s golf are expected to compete in the 144-player field, among them Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis, Lydia Ko, Brittany Altomare and Brooke Henderson. Also slated to participate are St. Pete native Brittany Lincicome and Nelly Korda of Bradenton.

“I don’t know why a new LPGA tournament didn’t happen here sooner,” says Kyle Draper, vice president of partnerships for Eiger Marketing, which is promoting and running the event. “The Bay area has grown so much, and it’s so golf-conscious. We’re getting a lot of sponsor interest, and the Pro-Am is selling well.”

Pro-Ams, which are part of many LPGA events, allow fans up-close access to the pros. On the Wednesday of Pelican Bay tournament week, 56 threesomes will join tour players in an 18-hole scramble. One pro will play the front nine, and another will jump in for the back nine. Sponsors receive allotted Pro-Am slots and trios can get into the swing of things for $13,500.

On Thursday, LPGA competition tees off, with players vying for $1.75 million in prize money, with a first-place purse of $262,500.

The Pelican Golf Club seen from above.

Pelican Golf Club is not actually a brand new course, but a dramatically renewed one. It was formerly the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, a Donald Ross-designed course that the Town of Belleair owned and ran as a public facility. In 2017, Belleair residents Daniel Doyle Sr. and his son, Daniel Jr. — founders of Dex Imaging, the tournament’s top sponsor — purchased the property for $3.8 million.

The new owners have spent extravagantly, with the aim of making the Pelican Golf Club a high-end, invitation-only private club that rivals those in Miami and Naples. They brought in esteemed Beau Welling Design to give the course an extreme makeover. While the existing layout remains mostly intact, the course got new grass, and more than 800 red maples and live oaks, along with thousands of shrubs. “The course is absolutely pristine, stunning,” Draper effuses. The 18-hole, 7,000-yard course — Florida flat with some undulations — opened for play in March 2019.

All of this should make for a terrific fan experience, which Draper says is goal No. 1 for the debut Pelican Women’s Championship.

Pelican Women’s Championship: Nov. 9-15 (rescheduled from May 11-17): Pelican Golf Club, Belleair. Tickets are $20 daily; admission to the climate-controlled Tampa Bay Lightning Luxury Skybox on the 18th hole is $225 per day. All four days of competition will be shown live on the Golf Channel. More info at pelicanlpga.com.

Read how local golf clubs are keeping courses open during the pandemic.