Valspar Championship and the Florida Open
PALM HARBOR - Nestled between one of Tampa Bay's busiest roads and the coast lies a golf resort worthy of hosting a major event. This year, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort will be hosting two major events.
First, everyone who is a true golf fan knows that the PGA Tour makes a yearly stop at the Copperhead Course. The course, a true test of golf - playing over 7,400 yards from the tips and boasting some slight to severe (for central Florida) undulation, is one of the favorites on the PGA Tour's yearly schedule. "If I could only play one course the rest of my life, it would be Copperhead," Curtis Strange said. "It has that much character."
Copperhead is one of four courses at the Innisbrook Resort. The Island course, where the FSGA will be hosting one of the three rounds for participants in the Florida Open, is considered to be the toughest at Innisbrook. The Island course navigates its way through a number of lakes, creeks and canals that are sure to grab an errant tee or approach shot at a moments notice. During the Florida Open, participants will play 18 holes on the Copperhead or Island courses Friday and Saturday. After the field is cut to the low 60 players and ties on Saturday, all remaining competitors will play the Copperhead course exclusively for the final round.
The Copperhead course has made a few updates since the first PGA Tour event came through Palm Harbor nearly 20 years ago. Back then, John Huston won the Innaugural event, then named the Tampa Bay Classic. The course did not feature the tough, undulating greens and long rough that Tour players have become accustomed to today. In order to keep up with the "long ball" that most Tour players are hitting now, Copperhead needed to undergo a few tee changes and turf changes. Most recently, the course went through a large-scale renovation project to bring new Celebration Bermuda Turf to the layout. "As the world will see next week, when the best players on the planet compete in the Valspar Championship, the golf course has been maturing nicely since the 2015 restoration project," Head Golf Professional Bobby Barnes said. "The new Celebration Bermuda Turf has proven to be the ideal grass for this climate and has adapted well to our tree lined fairways."
Just a few short months after the professionals leave Palm Harbor, the FSGA will be heading to Innisbrook to begin set up for one of the largest tournaments on their annual schedule. The Florida Open, in its 72nd year of existence, will be played on the same course that the pros played just months prior. The Florida Open is a staple on the FSGA's Men's Championship schedule, and the Association is ecstatic to be able to provide its competitors with Tour-level conditions for this years event. When asked how the course would play for our amateurs in July, Barnes said; "New turf takes 3-5 years to mature, so when the Florida Open is held on the Copperhead course this Summer, three years since the restoration, the players will find a fully mature golf course with smooth putting surfaces and beautifully sculpted bunkers; the new G-Angle sand has added a consistent surface that players love to hit from."
Competitors will be anxiously waiting for their opportunity to get to play this gem, nestled in the Palm Harbor pines. For those players not exempt into this years Championship, players will attempt to qualify at one of 16 sites across the State. The qualifiers will be conducted between June 13 - July 2.
Although the Copperhead course will provide a tough test, competitors at the Florida Open historically have found red numbers with ease. Out of the past five championships, only once has the field (low 60 players and ties) finished over par. Take a deeper look at the past five championships below:
- 2017 - Black Diamond Ranch
- Champion: J.C. Deacon (203)
- Scoring Average: 213.29
- 2016 - Interlachen Country Club
- 2015 - Timuquana Country Club
- Champion: John Jonas (a) (202)
- Scoring Average: 209.37
- 2014 - Bonita Bay Club
- Champion: Caleb Johnson (204)
- Scoring Average: 212.59
- 2013 - Quail Valley Golf Club
- Champion: Tyler McCumber (204)
- Scoring Average: 214.71
- Scoring Average: 219.86
Last year's Champion, J.C. Deacon, won by one stroke over fellow professional, Matt Borchert. The 71st Florida Open was hosted by Black Diamond Ranch, and featured a field of top-notch talent. This year, Deacon looks to defend his title against professionals and amateurs all aspiring for their chance to hoist the Florida Open trophy.
The Florida Open will be played July 13-15, 2018, on the Island and Copperhead Courses at Innisbrook Resort. For more information, click here.