PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Web.com Tour, in conjunction with The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and bd Global, LLC, today announced two new events in The Bahamas that will open the Tour’s 2017 season. The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic will be contested at Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course the week of January 5-11, while The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic will be held at The Abaco Club the week of January 19-25. Both tournaments will feature 132-player fields and $600,000 purses, with the winner of each receiving a $108,000 first-place prize.
The two events, which will open the Web.com Tour’s 2017 season over a three-week stretch, will feature tournament rounds contested Sunday through Wednesday, with all rounds broadcast live on Golf Channel. The unprecedented television format will allow for the conclusion of each event prior to the start of that week’s PGA TOUR stop.
The announcement comes on the heels of golf’s successful return to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904, as the PGA TOUR and the game’s governing bodies continue to globalize the sport in the 21st century.
Including the TOUR-sanctioned Hero World Challenge and the LPGA’s Pure Silk Bahamas Classic (contested the week after The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic), The Bahamas is now host to four professional golf tournaments on the game’s upper tier, which is more than all but three states in the U.S. – California, Texas and Florida.
“We are excited to announce these two season-opening events in The Bahamas,” said Web.com Tour President Bill Calfee. “Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe was instrumental in allowing us to bring the tournaments to life, and I’m confident that the groundbreaking nature of the tournament structure, coupled with the scenic beauty of The Out Islands, will make for a fantastic television product for our fans.”
“We are very pleased to host these two PGA TOUR-sanctioned events while showcasing the beauty and diversity of The Islands of The Bahamas,” said Minister of Tourism, Obie Wilchcombe. “Golf in The Bahamas is unlike anywhere else because of our top-notch hospitality and striking blue waters. Our islands have always been a favorite playground for many of the world’s top golfers and we are now looking forward to becoming a destination of choice among professionals on the Web.com Tour.”
Sandals Emerald Bay, which was given the prestigious Six Star Diamond Award, is one of 23 properties in seven countries under the Sandals Resorts International umbrella, which includes resorts in Antigua, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Turks and Caicos. The resort is one of the top properties in the Sandals brands, boasting 249 rooms and suites among 500 tropical acres with a mile-long white sand beach. Voted the Caribbean’s Best Golf Hotel, Sandals Emerald Bay located in Great Exuma, Bahamas, features a Greg Norman-designed 18-hole golf course, in addition to a world-class 150-slip marina, three freshwater pools, seven diverse 5-Star Global Gourmet dining options, unlimited land and water sports, and a lavish 29,000 sq. ft. Red Lane® Spa.
The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic will be the first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event to be contested at a Sandals property, with the Greg Norman signature course onsite serving as host of the season-opening event.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Web.com Tour to our award-winning, Greg Norman-designed course at Sandals Emerald Bay, recognized as one of the most scenic ocean-side golf courses in the Caribbean,” said Sandals Resorts Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart. “It’s a gorgeous but challenging course and it will be fun to watch the pros give it their best.”
The Abaco Club, which is owned and managed by U.S.-based Southworth Development, will serve as host venue for The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic. Southworth, a leader in the creation of residential resort and hospitality-branded real estate communities and clubs, manages properties in the United States, the United Kingdom and The Bahamas.
The Club, with 2.5 miles of pristine private beach, luxurious island homes and myriad amenities, attracts homeowners, members and guests from around the world. The golf course, which is the island club and residency of European Ryder Cup team captain Darren Clarke, is annually ranked as the top course in The Bahamas and will be one of the premier venues on the Web.com Tour schedule, with a links course that plays along both scenic Winding Bay and The Atlantic Ocean.
“All of us at Southworth Development, along with the residents, members and staff of The Abaco Club, are thrilled to be hosting this exciting new event – The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic,” said David Southworth, Founder and CEO of Southworth Development. “We’re certain that the Web.com Tour players are going to enjoy the many challenges presented by this unique, Scottish-style tropical links course – just as spectators and viewers on Golf Channel are going to love watching these great players compete on it. There’s really nothing else like this course in the world of golf, just as there’s no place in the world quite like The Abaco Club. The first annual Bahamas Great Abaco Classic is going to be a special event in every way, and we can’t wait for the first tee shot to be struck.”
bd Global, LLC, a representation, event management and public relations firm, will serve as the host organization for both events. The company, founded by owner Brooks Downing in 2012, is an international leader in event management, with over two decades of experience in the celebrity golf, college basketball tournament and major football bowl game arenas. bd Global has served as the catalyst for both new events, working closely with Bahamas Tourism to bring the Web.com Tour to The Bahamas.
“Minister Wilchcombe challenged us with his vision to showcase their Out Islands through sports,” Downing said. “We are very excited to bring PGA TOUR golf to The Bahamas which will serve to drive economic activity to both islands, provide a strong television platform for future travel and help the Minister continue to brand the entire Bahamas as a global golf destination.”
The events will kick off the Web.com Tour’s 28th season, where 25 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded at the conclusion of the Regular Season, with an additional 25 awarded at the season-ending, four-event Web.com Tour Finals.
The Web.com Tour is the path to the PGA TOUR, with 451 victories coming from former Tour players – including 22 major championships.