Some of the most prestigious names in women’s golfing history will be playing together in November — right here in East County.
On Monday morning, The Palm-Aire Country Club announced it will be hosting the ISPS Handa Cup, which gathers LPGA legends from around the world to compete against one another, from Nov. 12-14.
Though the economic impact of the event has not yet been determined, with 76 golf courses in Manatee and Sarasota counties, there will be large-scale interest in the event, according to club officials.
“We believe we have something that will be able to bring people together,” said Ed Kornberger, Palm-Aire Country Club board president.
The two teams will consist of 12 American-born players against 12 internationally born players, in a format similar to the Ryder Cup.
“I love Sarasota,” said Nancy Lopez, an LPGA legend who spoke via telephone Monday at the press conference and has played in past Handa Cups. “I have a lot of great memories there – my first LPGA win happened there at Bent Tree (Country Club). I won my 35th there, which got me into the hall of fame. I have a lot of good memories in Sarasota. The name Sarasota means a lot to me.”
Lopez will captain the American team at Palm Aire in November, while Sally Little will captain the world team.
“The Legends Tour has so many great players on it, players who opened the door for a lot of recognition in women’s golf,” Lopez said.
Canadian Hall-of-Fame golfer Dawn Coe-Jones said the Handa Cup is an event she circles on her calendar every year.
The United States team currently holds an 8-1 record over the World team, with the lone world win coming in Coe-Jones’ absence.
Australian golfer Jan Stephenson, also available via telephone, said it’s great to mix it up with golfers they became so familiar with over the years.
“We’re more competitive now because we don’t play that much, so it’s fun to go compete again,” she said. “We want to go out and show how important it is for us.”
Coe-Jones added that it’s a time to be competitive, rekindle old friendships and show appreciation for the fans that followed them in years past.
She also said it’s great seeing fans approach her with memorabilia she signed decades ago.
With the event taking place in November, Palm-Aire is still ironing out details of sponsors, volunteer opportunities and the overall impact the Handa Cup will bring to the area.
Kornberger, though, said both Manatee and Sarasota county officials worked to help attract the championship to East County.
“The number of hotel rooms used, the visitors and the impact to both counties is going to be huge,” Kornberger said.
Contact Jason Clary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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