Inaugural Concession Cup promises amateur golf excitement for Sarasota area

By Mike BaileyDecember 19, 2013, 7:04 pm

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Most golfers are too young to remember "The Concession," but it's something that neither Tony Jacklin nor Jack Nicklaus or their generation have ever forgotten. The year was 1969, the event was the Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. The last singles match, between Jacklin and Nicklaus, came down to a two-footer on the last green.

In a gesture of sportsmanship, Nicklaus conceded Jacklin's putt, and for all of Jacklin's accomplishments in golf – which includes wins at the British and U.S. Opens, he is often remembered for this moment as much as any other.

Nicklaus also concedes that Jacklin probably wouldn't have missed the putt, but you never know (It's happened before and since under pressure.). Nicklaus simply didn't want to win that way.

"I think it was the greatest single sporting gesture in golf," said Jacklin, who also brought relevance to the Ryder Cup by successfully captaining four teams. "If there was a greater one, I don't know what it is."

In 2005 when Nicklaus and Jacklin collaborated on a high-end private club here, Jacklin suggested to Nicklaus that the club be called The Concession to honor that moment. Sometimes, however, it gets confused with another club in South Carolina called "Secession," but an amateur event that will be coming to The Concession in 2014, plus a couple of other high profile tournaments here, are helping The Concession make a name for itself.

The new biennial competition is called the Concession Cup, and in 2014, it celebrates the 45th anniversary of that iconic moment. Instead of pros, it'll be the top amateurs 25 and older from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland (The Ryder Cup didn't include the rest of Europe until 1979.). Best of all, Nicklaus and Jacklin will serve as honorary captains of the first Concession Cup.

Scheduled for April 28-May 3, it promises to be a real coup for the Sarasota/Bradenton golf scene. The club's owners, the Cassidy Family-- led by Bruce Cassidy and son Bruce Jr., the club's GM – are opening the doors to their club for a week. Not only will the Concession Cup pay homage to amateur golf with a Ryder Cup-style competition, but it also will raise significant money for Southwest Florida children's charities -- The First Tee of Tampa Bay, Orphan's Heart and the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.

Additionally, Concession Club members Paul Azinger (who lives in Bradenton and grew up in Sarasota) and Gary Koch, will have prominent roles. Azinger who won the 1993 PGA Championship and captained the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, will serve as the event's honorary chairman, and he has long been involved in Orphan's Heart. Koch, a commentator for NBC Sports and six-time winner on the PGA Tour, will emcee the opening ceremonies.

"We're all excited about the prospect of what we think will be a massive event – at least locally," said Bruce Cassidy.

There might be a few other special guests as well. As part of the spirit of the club, all living Ryder Cup captains are extended honorary memberships to the club, which has Ryder Cup themes throughout. The logo, in fact, is a silhouette of Nicklaus and Jacklin from that famous 1969 moment.

The event also will surely bring attention to a growing golf scene that includes a collection of outstanding private and public clubs. The Concession Club, which has hosted the Big Ten Match Play the last three years and will be the site of the 2015 NCAA men's and women's national championship, is at or near the top of the list. (Nearby Sara Bay Golf Cub, a 1936 Donald Ross design that Bobby Jones once called home, is certainly up there as well.)

Although Nicklaus was the main designer, Jacklin's influence is also apparent. Not only did he help select the land for the course – which is on one of the most unique golf properties in Florida – but he had input on several of the holes, a dozen of which have water on them from the 60 acres of lakes.

As is the case with all Nicklaus courses, though, this one can difficult. Play it from the back tees at 7,474 yards, and it's "all you can handle," assured the 53-year-old Azinger, a 12-tme PGA Tour winner who doesn't step back to the tips nearly as often as he used to.

The slope rating from the tips is 155/76.6.

Fortunately, for members and guests, there are five sets of tees, but even if you play up, the real fun on this atypical Florida course is when you get to the greens.

The course was designed around the same time Nicklaus did The Golf Club at Dove Mountain near Tucson and Sebonack (with Tom Doak) on Long Island, N.Y. What it has in common with those two courses are its challenging greens. So much so, in fact, that the greens on the front nine were renovated recently to allow for more pin positions. Make no mistake, however, they are still formidable, as are the deep greenside bunkers, which are filled with pure white and expensive, imported Pro Angle sand. There are more than a couple of stories of prominent pros who have visited, such as six-time major champion Nick Faldo, making a mess of the par-5 13th hole, for example, after hitting the green in two and putting off the green only to wind up in his pocket.

The greens aren't impossible, though; you just have to hit approaches below the hole and miss to the correct side. And fortunately, the rest of the course very playable. Fairways are generally generous, and course conditions -- thanks to one of the best in the business, superintendent Terry Kennelly -- are among the best in the country all combining to rank The Concession as the Best New Private Course in the United States when it opened in 2006 and currently the fourth best course in Florida.

The Concession also has some of the best practice facilities anywhere, which is no wonder that many tour players – such as Britanny Lincicome, Sandra Gal and Andy Bean are members. Additionally, teaching guru David Leadbetter is not only a member at the club, but he's also The Concession's instruction advisor (members can get special rates with the world's most sought-out teacher).

The Concession Cup will include a charity am/am event on April 30 before the competition, which includes foursome matches, fourball matches and singles matches. Each team will be composed of eight mid-amateurs (age 25-54), eight seniors and two super seniors, age 65 and older. Although the full rosters haven't been announced yet, the U.S. team is already set to include Gary Nicklaus, Nathan Smith and Vinney Giles. For more information, visit

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.