History of The Florida Swing


The weather is great. So are the golf courses. The players have been playing a couple of months so they have their swings well grooved. And it is Florida in the springtime. What more could a golf fan ask for?
Ah, the Florida Swing, one month in the Sunshine State. Doral, Honda, Bay Hill, the Players Championship . they've been around since 1974 in one form or another. That was the origination of the Players, the latest entrant to come aboard. The Genuity Classic - nee Doral - started way back in 1962. Bay Hill, which began as the Florida Citrus Open Invitational, has been around since 1966. And the Honda Classic, which began as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, first welcomed professional golfers in 1972.
Miami, the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, Orlando, the Greater Jacksonville area, the trek goes northward across the state, stop by stop by stop. With only minor glitches, they have been played in that order since the beginning. Occasionally a tournament will come in between Bay Hill and the Players, but that is a rare occurrence. Normally, it's a celebration of PGA Tour golf in Florida the whole month of March.
Actually, golf has been played in the state since the tour began in 1940. The St. Petersburg Open, the Miami Four-Ball, the Miami Open, the Jacksonville Open, the Orlando Open, the Palm Beach Open, the Eastern Open, the National Open and the Pensacola Open have all been played in Florida at one time or another. Some were in March, certainly, but others were scattered throughout the calendar. The Miami Open was in November. Today, there is the tournament at Walt Disney World in Orlando in October.
But the four-tournament rotation known as 'the Florida Swing' is played in March and is contested at Doral's Blue Course, the TPC at Heron Bay, Bay Hill and the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. All are relatively recent additions to tour play, with Doral's Blue the first addition in 1962.
Billy Casper won twice at Doral before the remainder of the Florida Swing swung into action. Arnold Palmer was one of the early winners of the Florida Citrus Open, played then at Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando. Lee Trevino won both Doral and the Jackie Gleason Inverrary (Honda) in 1973. But when the Players Championship began play in 1974, replacing the Greater Jacksonville Open, the action really began to heat up.
Jack Nicklaus is really the star of the Florida Swing. He has won 10 times inside the state, though three have been at Disney. But when the Swing got going in '74, Nicklaus won in his adopted home state at The Players Championship. He won in '75 at Doral - where, incidentally, he had won in 1972 before there was a Players. He won in '76 again at the Players, in '77 at the Jackie Gleason Inverrary (Honda), and in '77 again at the Gleason. His six wins tops all players. Nicklaus never won Bay Hill, Palmer's tournament, but he lost playoffs at the Florida Citrus in 1966 and at Bay Hill in 1982.
The Florida Citrus was a big reason that Palmer decided to winter in Orlando. He, along with others, purchased Bay Hill and shortly thereafter moved the Florida Citrus tournament from Rio Pinar in 1979. He had won for the final time on the regular tour in 1973 at the Bob Hope, but one of the last times he was victorious came in 1971 at the Citrus.
Doral is the only stop to hold its tournament in one place. In 1962, Dorothy and Al Kaskel (hence 'Dor-al') founded their resort near the Miami airport, and the Blue Course has been the tourney's only stop. Ray Floyd has won it three times, Andy Bean three times, Greg Norman three, and others have won it twice. It has been known as the Doral Eastern Open and the Doral Ryder Open, and this year as Genuity.
Honda was the namesake of the Gleason for eight years, until 1980. It was played in Fort Lauderdale at Inverrary Country Club from its inception in 1972. In 1981 it became the American Motors Inverrary Classic, changed to the Honda Inverrary Classic after one year, and then became simply the Honda Classic in 1984 when it moved to TPC at Eagle Trace in Coral Springs. Weston Hills in nearby Fort Lauderdale had the tourney for four years before it moved to Heron Bay.
Bay Hill has been played only at Rio Pinar and Bay Hill. Sponsors include Hertz, Nestle, Office Depot and now Cooper Tires. The Players Championship was originally the Tournament Players Championship and played in three different locations before heading to Sawgrass Country Club in 1977. In 1982 it moved close by to its new home, the TPC Stadium course.