Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Locals Eager for Slice of Players' Green; It's a Super Bowl-Sized Event, Says the Golf Industry, and Swings Millions in Impact

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Locals Eager for Slice of Players' Green; It's a Super Bowl-Sized Event, Says the Golf Industry, and Swings Millions in Impact

Article excerpt

Byline: ALISON TRINIDAD

The Players Championship -- and golf, in general -- means big bucks for the First Coast.

Not only does the PGA Tour's signature event boast the biggest purse in the sport ($9 million), it also feeds millions of dollars into the region's economy every year.

But can all of Northeast Florida tap into the wealth?

This year, it's really trying.

From The Players-branded luggage tags at Jacksonville International Airport to individual advertising campaigns of local businesses, there's a concerted effort to cash in on the golf tournament.

The Players is the centerpiece of the region's golf business, but the push to make it regional is relatively recent, said David Reese, president of Florida's First Coast of Golf, a nonprofit marketing agency.

"Last year, we had kind of a wake-up call: We've got a Super-Bowl-sized event [here] in the golf world," Reese said. "We've just got to ... apply the same principles we did for Super Bowl and take it as seriously as the Tour [does]."

NEW RENOVATIONS, ACTIVITIES

This year's championship showcases a $40 million renovation of TPC Sawgrass, which includes a new $33 million clubhouse. The nearby Sawgrass Marriott hotel invested in a $16 million renovation.

And, for the first time, the city of Jacksonville will host a PGA Tour-sanctioned celebration at The Jacksonville Landing beginning Friday. The Players Downtown Experience, which runs through Sunday, will feature fireworks, entertainment, championship souvenirs and interactive games for fans.

On Friday, from noon to 8 p.m., there will be free transportation between TPC Sawgrass and downtown for those with tickets to the tournament.

The PGA Tour pushed to increase ticket sales by 10,000 this year, with the hope that the overflow of visitors would spill from St. Johns County into Jacksonville.

"There has been a lot of overflow every year," said Lyndsay Rossman, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville tourism bureau. "We can't speculate right now how it's going to work, but we're hopeful that it will be a great event."

The Players generates roughly 1,400 jobs and $95. …

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