Going, going, going and almost gone.
Returning, returning, returning and most certainly back in business if not quite yet thriving.
That’s the recent status of a golf staple – varied tournaments of all manners and form offered by courses throughout South Florida.
Course/members tournaments – big, small and a few that are downright bizarre – are good for golfers, good for charitable causes and good for the courses as they produce fun and money.
Unfortunately, the pandemic put a big dent in the calendar. Tournaments were put on hold or fell by the wayside during the six-week shutdown nearly a year ago. In recent months, though, courses are making up for that lost time.
Following that shutdown, golf boomed – some 25 percent increase in participants nationwide. Part of the reason is because the sport is considered one of the safest to play – outdoors, in wide open spaces – despite the pandemic.
Reviving tournaments lagged behind the boom but now are coming back into play – literally.
Just about everybody enjoys a good best-ball event in which you can buy mulligans ($5 or so), try to win a modest amount of money playing closest to the pin on par-3s or battle for the longest drive of the day.
Heck, there are even themed tournaments that include dressing up and playing in a Halloween outfit.
Golf administrators know, whether it is best ball or straight-up, it is fun to get out among a large group and meet new fellow players devoted to the game.
Even with its revival, changes remain. Silent auctions might now be virtual auctions. Tournaments have steered away from big, indoor post-golf lunches and dinners. An outside barbecue might have to suffice.
Rest assured, though, that beer and wine still usually flow. And all that might even taste better with a light breeze and good weather.
That said, even a pandemic can’t take away the satisfaction of being on a beautiful, meticulously maintained course amid trees, flowers, birds and other wildlife with a picture-perfect sky above. And in the process you can be helping a worthy charity.
To give you an update on tournament play throughout South Florida, we took a quick survey.
Jeff Hunt runs the Miami Beach Golf Club and puts on one of South Florida’s top amateur events – the world-ranked South Beach International Amateur – every year. This year, spectators were limited due to the pandemic.
Nevertheless, Hunt still managed to put on charity events – one in July of 2020 and two in the fall. He has eight more scheduled currently for April and May, but he said that is down from the normal 12 or 15.
“We’re trying to keep our charity events intact while we wait for the corporations and sponsors to come back,” Hunt said. “We still put on tournaments for our members with social distancing for everything. We follow all the rules stringently.
“Our members are faithful, and we are still providing golf events and tournaments for them. Course memberships are rising, not falling. There are things we can’t do – no dinners, no close partying. I have to say no to some things. For now, we can’t do them.”
Davie Golf Club prides itself on having fun – both in tournaments and everyday play. Overseeing the course’s tournaments is Tom Caminiti, whose official title is Director of Marketing and Fun. Part of that fun is the course and its greens. Those greens have more undulations than a camel’s back and leave most people laughing at each other’s putts. OK, in the name of accuracy, they also leave a few too-serious players crying.
As Caminiti put it, “We are the poor man’s Augusta. If you can putt our greens, you can putt theirs.”
A Davie tournament staple is a par-3 event on Tuesday nights. All holes are turned into par-3s by teeing off up the fairway. Davie also runs an Optimist International tournament and a Junior Golf Championship. In addition, there’s a tournament to raise money for veterans, and part of that money goes toward flying them to Washington to see the monuments there.
Like most of Florida courses, Caminiti admitted that “overall, tournaments are down.” He also pointed out,
“Canadians did not show up this year in the number of previous years.”
Casey Mitchell is director of golf at Sandhill Crane and proud that one of its main tournaments helps veterans continue onward and upward.
“It’s to raise money to help veterans in all areas,” Mitchell said of the event in its 14th year at the club. “That includes homeless and indigent veterans.”
Last year, the event raised a record $55,000 for the Veterans Center.
Mitchell makes it firmly clear that not even a pandemic is going to shut them down from helping veterans.
“This tournament will go on forever,” Mitchell promised.
In addition, the course hires veterans.
Other tournament funds from Sandhill go to animal rescue organizations.
“You never feel like you do enough,” Mitchell said. “Golf tournaments can make a huge impact.”