The origins of the first and groundbreaking tournament of the 2019 season for the LPGA Tour arose from a conversation that LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan had with Mike Flaskey, CEO of the worldwide vacation and timeshare corporation Diamond Resorts.
According to the Commissioner, CEO Mike Flaskey asked whether the LPGA Tour had a sort of party where previous winners on the Tour are celebrated and get to play some great golf while also having fun every night. The Commissioner explained that the LPGA hosts some great galas and post-tournament parties, but Mike Flaskey had a new and different vision. He wanted Diamond Resorts to be the LPGA’s week-long party for the Tour, the thing that players tried to qualify for, something that would take tournaments to the next level.
The Commissioner had only one thing to say: “We are ready to party!”
And he means it. Soon thereafter, once the Diamond Resorts deal was done, the Insurance Office of America (IOA) joined as a presenting sponsor, and one of the most exciting and innovative tournaments of the new season was born.
“One thing I love about our partnership with the LPGA and Mike Whan is that they’re open-minded and creative,” Mike Flaskey said. “They sit back, listen, and say, ‘That’s a really good idea. What if we do this?’ And the next thing you know, you’re collaborating.”
The result is the groundbreaking Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, comprised of two tournaments being played at the same time within the same foursome but using different formats. Here’s how it works.
The first—for the LPGA Tour players—is a stroke play competition, which doesn’t have a cut and is made up of the 36 winners of the 2017 and 2018 LPGA Tour events player for a $1.2 million prize.
The second, in adding to the excitement of the tournament, welcomes sports and entertainment celebrities to play a round of golf in a foursome with LPGA Tour players. However, the celebrities will be using the Modified Stableford format of play, which awards points for excellent play on the golf course compared to par on each hole. The Modified Stableford does not deduct points for poor play. In this format, the higher your score, the better!
The Modified Stableford format, in my opinion, involves a lot of risks because only points are earned for pars, birdies, eagles, and holes-in-one but not for bogies or higher. So, golfers face a risk-reward dilemma when playing. Should they risk hitting to the back flag to lower their number of strokes, but risk rolling off the green? Or should they play it safe and rely on a chip and putt but chance getting a bogie?
Both the LPGA Tour players and the celebrity athletes are well-acquainted with taking smart risks in their careers—that’s how they became so good and so famous— no matter what happens in this tournament, it is going to be exciting and fun to watch.
Personally, I have my eye on country music star Toby Keith, as he has a 15 handicap and I love his music. And because baseball players are supposed to have a natural golf swing, I’ll also be watching Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. Hockey players are also supposed to be good golfers, so I will follow hockey star Jeremy Roenick too. And how could I forget Larry the Cable Guy, who loves golf!
You can see a complete list of all of the LPGA Tour players and celebrity participants by going to the tournament website. Let us know who you’re rooting for in the comments below.