The newly minted Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, of course.
Diamond Resorts announced the new golf tournament at a press conference with the LPGA on Wednesday, March 14 while in Scottsdale, Arizona, and it immediately captured the attention of international media and fans alike. The tournament will be one of the most unique events in tournament golf, combining some of the best LPGA professionals and celebrity golfers.
As an official LPGA Tour event, the Tournament of Champions will open the 2019 LPGA season Jan. 17-20, 2019, at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Winners from the last two LPGA seasons will be invited to play, along with 45 celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds, and 10 amateur golfers.
“We’re very honored and excited. We felt like we had the perfect product with the Diamond Resorts Invitational to transfer this into the @diamondresorts Tournament of Champions with the LPGA.” @TheVacationDR #DiamondLPGA #BagsPacked pic.twitter.com/G2LG0tUsez
— LPGA (@LPGA) March 14, 2018
LPGA professionals will play 72 holes of stroke play with no cut and compete for a $1.2 million purse, while the celebrities will compete using a Modified Stableford scoring format for a $500,000 purse.
So far in 2018, five LPGA players have already earned invitations to the inaugural event – Brittany Lincicome, Jin Young Ko, Jessica Korda and Inbee Park. They will be joined by the remaining 2018 winners, as well as 2017 champions Shanshan Feng, Brooke Henderson, Ha Na Jang, Eun Hee Ji, Ariya Jutanugarn, Danielle Kang, Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim, Sei Young Kim, Katherine Kirk, Mi Hyang Lee, Mirim Lee, Stacy Lewis, Haru Nomura, Anna Nordqvist, Inbee Park, Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson and Amy Yang.
— LPGA (@LPGA) March 19, 2018
Diamond has been sponsoring golf tournaments since 2013, when PGA Tour professional Brian Gay offered to lend his name to the first event, which featured a celebrity-only tournament and $40,000 prize purse. More than 300 golfers, celebrities and spectators attended and Tournament Founder, Mike Flaskey, quickly realized they were on to something with the unique format.
Using his connections in the sports and entertainment world, Flaskey helped expand the tournament in 2014 and in 2016, it was officially renamed the Diamond Resorts Invitational™ and televised for the first time on Golf Channel. In 2017, the Invitational became a PGA TOUR Champions Challenge Season event, featuring PGA TOUR Champions players and LPGA professionals playing side-by-side with celebrities and amateur golfers for separate prize purses totaling $1.2 million.
— Lee Brice (@leebrice) March 16, 2018
Flaskey knew they had “captured lightning in a bottle” with the tournament, but knew Diamond needed to step it up a notch for 2019. He wanted to turn it into an even more competitive and professional golf tournament, so he met with LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, who agreed. Together, they created the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
The inaugural event will be four days, two of which will be nationally televised on Golf Channel. The other two days will be televised on NBC network television, preceded by an hour-long Golf Channel lead-in. At the press conference in Scottsdale, Flaskey said he knows Diamond has nailed something with the new tournament. It will be bigger and better than previous years, and will feature some of the best LPGA players.