LPGA to return to Naples
Tournament will be played Nov. 15-18 in ...
Annika Sorenstam on LPGA Tour
LPGA Tour returns to Naples
Annika Sorenstam plays golf
Scene from Global Financial Leadership Conference.
11725 Twineagles Blvd, Naples
NAPLES — The buzz has begun.
The buzz has begun.
It will only grow from here.
Next year, the local economy will get a multimillion dollar boost from a season-ending LPGA golf tournament, which is being played in Orlando this year.
The tournament, known as CME Group Titleholders, will be played at TwinEagles in North Naples from Nov. 15-18 in 2012. The event will do more than just bring the world’s best female golfers to town. It promises to pump millions of dollars into the local economy and will give the Naples area international exposure, thanks in big part to its title sponsor, CME Group, a global company.
A high-profile tournament of this magnitude can have a local economic impact of $10 million, said Jeff Kleiber, a senior vice president for global events for Octagon, a Connecticut-based company that’s managing the event. It generates business for hotels, restaurants, shops and other companies, big and small.
“It’s seven days of golf, but it’s also weeks of building and then tearing down. It’s a process,” Kleiber said.
The tournament will bring other related meetings and events to the Naples area. LPGA sponsors will bring their customers in from around the world to attend the unique tournament. Other visitors might be in for a surprise, if they don’t plan ahead.
“It’s definitely not a great week to get a hotel or a restaurant reservation,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “But we’ll leave an economic mark on the city of Naples.”
From each LPGA Tour tournament next season, three top players will qualify to compete in the season-ending event, a format that hasn’t been used in professional golf before. It has created a new competition among the players, who don’t want to be left out of it.
In the CME tournament next year, players will compete for a $1.5 million purse and a $500,000 first-place check.
“There isn’t a player alive that doesn’t get excited about being in Naples the week before Thanksgiving,” Whan said. “They know the weather is good. They know the golf is good and they know the fans here are good. The golf fans, they understand the game down here.”
The Titleholders tournament will bring in TV crews and generate a frenzy of media attention, putting a spotlight on the Naples area for a week, he said.
The attention will be welcomed by Jack Wert, the executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It will probably give us a nice introduction to visitation in the winter season,” he said. “Golf is certainly a good draw for us.”
Anthony Solomon, executive vice president of The Ronto Group, the owner of the TwinEagles development and its golf club off Immokalee Road, said the event will “really put Naples on the map internationally.”
It could help spur home sales in TwinEagles, where there are 10 new model homes to see. Since acquiring the development about a year ago, The Ronto Group has made big investments in the community, including the redesign of its golf courses to make them more challenging.
“We want TwinEagles to be known as a place for serious golfers,” Solomon said. “We’re going to have two of the best golf courses in the area.”
Terry Duffy, CME Group’s Executive Chairman, said Naples is a natural fit for the tournament. He’s had a part-time home in the area for almost five years and CME annually holds its Global Financial Leadership Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, beachfront resort off Vanderbilt Beach Road.
The announcement that the Titleholders will move to North Naples next year comes as CME, a trader of futures and options, is considering moving from Illinois because the tax rate is so high. The company operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, as well as other exchanges. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has suggested that Naples is as good a headquarters as any for CME.
In his talks with the company the governor has been “cordial,” but no decisions have yet been made about a move, Duffy said.
“We’ve said many of times we are looking at multiple states’ proposals,” he said. “We’re hoping by year end we’ll have some resolution to this.”
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.