The allure of the Island Green at No. 17—widely recognized as one of golf’s most iconic and challenging holes—has been drawing the game’s finest to the Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass for decades. And it’s that same mystique and fanaticism that has golf fans flocking to the club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, for The Players Championship, a prestigious annual PGA Tour event.
This year’s tournament, which gets rolling on Thursday with featured groups that include Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, will have golf’s finest vying for the $2.25 million winner’s prize. And while the tourney’s total purse is set to shatter the record for the largest in professional golf history at a cool $12.5 million, the biggest economic winner will be business owners in the Ponte Vedra Beach area.
Snugly nestled between St. Augustine and Jacksonville along Florida’s Atlantic coast, Ponte Vedra Beach resides in St. Johns County, commonly referred to as the wealthiest county in Florida. This sleepy beachfront community that boasts stunning scenery and an abundance of outdoor activities swells in population each year during tournament week.
Nearly 150 golfers will make up this year’s field, with hordes of family members, caddies, business associates and trainers traveling in tow. And it’s not just the locals that come out in droves to watch the pros at the PGA’s unofficial “fifth major.”
Golf fans from across the world have already purchased tickets, and more than 40,000 spectators will pack the grounds at the club each day. That equates to a total attendance of more than 200,000. In addition, about 900 media members will be in attendance with 300 of those traveling in to cover the event.
Some organizations from outside the area will also use the tournament as a unique and fun venue to hold networking or business development gatherings. These sponsorship opportunities include experiences that go far beyond just general admission tickets to the gallery. There are hospitality packages aimed at providing visitors with unparalleled access that includes entry to the clubhouse and other behind-the-scenes spots.
With so many visitors descending on the stretch known as Florida’s First Coast, local merchants, hoteliers, restaurateurs and shop owners are expecting an economic boom.
A study completed in 2017 estimated the tournament’s economic impact on the region at about $151 million. To put that number into perspective, other PGA events in considerably larger markets have failed to reach a number even close to what The Players Championship contributes locally. For instance, the PGA Championship in St. Louis generates a little over $100 million to its local economy.
Though the events surrounding the tournament only last a few days, there are months of work put in prior to the start of play. And removal of temporary construction built to support the tourney’s rabid fans can take several weeks, according to the Executive Director of The Players Championship. In total, event organizers put the number of jobs created as a result of the tournament at almost 2,000.
Other local courses can also expect to see an uptick in golfers this week. Guests on vacation are likely to hit nearby links to try and emulate Woods and other fan favorites participating this year, like Justin Rose and Webb Simpson.
Many of those who are unable to make it to Ponte Vedra Beach will be watching from afar, dreaming of slaying the infamous 17th hole. For those not in attendance, the Golf Channel and NBC will broadcast the tournament in the U.S., while international partners will stream play to more than 1 billion households in 226 countries.
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