$1.2 million in prize money, challenging format, luminaries, charity fundraising, Golf Channel, headline entertainment have players clamoring to join field
Oct. 10, 2017 (ORLANDO, Fla.) – The Diamond Resorts Invitational™ benefiting Florida Hospital for Children returns with its popular format featuring PGA TOUR Champions players, LPGA stars and sports/entertainment celebrities, January 12-14, 2018 at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Last year’s combination of golf professionals and celebrities competing together for separate purses totaling $1.2 million captured the golf world’s imagination and has sparked a high demand among players for limited spots at this year’s tournament. And the unique format has raised curiosity and popularity among media, sponsors and the public to an excitedly high level.
“We caught lightning in a bottle,” said Michael Flaskey, Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Resorts International®. “The tournament has been an enormous hit, being nationally televised on Golf Channel, becoming part of the PGA TOUR Champions Challenge Season schedule and the best part of all is that we’ve raised some serious money for Florida Hospital for Children.”
Flaskey created the event and utilized his relationships with professional golfers, PGA TOUR officials, colleagues at Golf Channel and in Major League Baseball to achieve its current stature. The Diamond Resorts Invitational™ is now nationally televised on Golf Channel for all three days, is the first PGA TOUR Champions Challenge Season event of the 2018 calendar year and has raised more than $2.3 million for Florida Hospital for Children since 2013. Those attributes make it a coveted invitation among golf pros, Major League Baseball players and other golf-loving celebrities.
The 2018 tournament will feature up to 27 PGA TOUR Champions players, five LPGA stars and 46 top-tier athletes and entertainment celebrities in two distinct competitions, utilizing a Modified Stableford scoring format, which awards points as opposed to strokes – similar to the PGA TOUR’s Barracuda Championship.
PGA TOUR Champions and LPGA players will compete for $750,000 over the 54-hole tournament, while the celebrities will play for a $500,000 purse. Threesomes will include one Champions Tour or LPGA professional and two celebrities. The singular format allows for a distinct competition, as all professionals and celebrities play their own ball and compete from the same tees for 54 holes.
Among the early commitments is Brittany Lincicome, who credited her LPGA season-opening win in the 2017 Pure Silk Bahamas Classic to her competing against the PGA TOUR Champions players and her LPGA colleagues the previous week in the Diamond Resorts Invitational™. Country music artists Cole Swindell and Lee Brice are also competing in the tournament and doubling as the featured entertainment for the week’s festivities, which includes fundraising for Florida Hospital for Children. Other celebrities expected to attend are PGA TOUR Champions star John Cook, former Web.com tour player and country music songwriter and musician Colt Ford, Washington Redskins Super Bowl MVP quarterback Mark Rypien, and baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. All are Diamond Resorts Ambassadors and regularly interact with Diamond Resorts members, owners and guests during exclusive vacation experiences and events.
Other PGA TOUR Champions participants from this past January were pro champion Woody Austin-- one of eight players in history to record that score during a tournament; John Daly, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Kenny Perry, Mark Calcavecchia, Lee Janzen, Scott Hoch, Jeff Sluman, Tommy Armour III, Gil Morgan and Billy Mayfair. In addition to Lincicome, LPGA Tour players included Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang and Brooke Henderson.
The celebrity field was led by Marcus Allen, Roger Clemens, Josh Donaldson, Chicago Cubs World Champion pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey, Colt Ford, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Brian McCann, Kevin Millar, Mike Modano, Larry the Cable Guy and 2016 celebrity champion, Mardy Fish. Active National Football League stars included Arizona Cardinals All-Pros Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson, as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Bryan Walters. The defending champion is former Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals standout pitcher, Mark Mulder.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational™ is the PGA TOUR Champions final Challenge Season tournament before the Regular Season opening event the following week, January 18-20 at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai at Hualalai Golf Club in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii.
Tournament week will begin Thursday, January 11 with the fifth-annual Brian Gay Pro-Am presented by Diamond Resorts International®. Gay, a four-time PGA TOUR winner and longtime Orlando resident, will serve as host of the 18-hole celebrity-amateur competition, which will feature foursomes comprised of three amateurs and one celebrity or PGA TOUR Champions player. An evening dinner and concert at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, one of Diamond Resorts’ flagship resorts in Orlando, will complement Thursday’s events.
Saturday evening will be a highlight of the tournament with a gourmet dinner and headliner concert by country star Cole Swindell. Previous headliners have featured Jake Owen, Huey Lewis and the News, and Darius Rucker. The accompanying live and silent auctions have helped raised more than $2.3 million for Florida Hospital for Children.
The tournament site, Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, is unique to Central Florida for its varying elevation, abundant wildlife and protected wetlands. Originally built in 1992 and designed by Tom Fazio as Osprey Ridge, Fazio enhanced the Orlando golf course for its October 2014 launch as Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. The course is a par 71 and plays to 6,901 yards.
For more information on the Diamond Resorts Invitational™, please visit DRIGolf.com.