|...Carolina Golf News Line|
Inaugural Southern Open to Draw Elite Field of Pros and Ams
CONCORD, N.C. – A significant addition to the southern golf landscape arrives this summer with the formation of the Southern Open, an annual championship that will attract an elite field of professional and amateur golfers to Cabarrus County.
The 2005 Southern Open takes place July 15-17 on the championship layouts of Cabarrus Country Club and Kannapolis Country Club. This 54-hole, stroke-play tournament will pay a guaranteed $15,000 for first place, with an expected total purse of $75,000.
|A Tarheel Professional tees off on Cabarrus Country Club's 16th
Cabarrus CC is in the high country of Cabarrus County and Charlotte can be seen below in the distance.
Organizers are targeting a field of 250-300 participants, which would make it the largest individual professional stroke-play tournament in the Carolinas. About three-fourths of the field will be pros, according to tournament director Paul Wortham, co-owner of the Charlotte-based Tarheel Professional Tour.
Photo by Golfholes.com
“I want this to become the premier open golf championship in the Southland, outside of the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and Champions Tour,” said Wortham. “Our goal is to draw professionals and top-notch amateurs from across the Southeast. We hope this gets circled on the schedule of professional golfers at every level, whether they’re a club pro or play the Nationwide Tour or the PGA Tour. If those guys have a gap in their schedule, we welcome them to tee it up.”
The event has already gained tremendous support within the community. The Cabarrus County CVB is a corporate partner for the Open, which will attract hundreds of participants and spectators for three days, resulting in an estimated economic impact of nearly $200,000 to the county. The host hotel is the Wingate Inn off Speedway Boulevard, as well as Wingate’s sister property, the Suburban Extended Stay Concord. Activities will be coordinated around the hotels and the Speedway Boulevard exit (www.speedway-blvd.com). Southwest Cabarrus Rotary will be the charitable beneficiary of the tournament, and will also provide volunteers.
The week’s festivities include a separate Pro-Am on July 13 at Cabarrus Country Club. Teams of three amateurs will be paired with a Southern Open professional for a day of golf, followed by a banquet at the luxurious Speedway Club at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Each participant in the Pro-Am receives a pace car ride around the 1.5-mile NASCAR track.
“The Pro-Am will allow amateurs of all skill levels to be involved,” explained Wortham. “Amateurs who aren’t in the Southern Open can participate and be treated like pros for a day.”
Wortham feels the Open can draw a large field based on several reasons. First, there will be significant spillover from the Tarheel Tour, which is averaging nearly 90 golfers per event this year. Second, the purse is large enough to pique the interest of pros throughout the South. Third, the courses are very good, with Kannapolis Country Club providing an added draw because it hosts the first stage of PGA Tour Q-School this fall. And finally, the tournament provides an option for hundreds of pros who’ve traditionally played the Crown Royal each July in Williamsburg, Va. After many years, the Crown Royal will not be held this year.
“The formula is in place for success,” said Wortham. “We’ve created a tournament that gives golf professionals the opportunity to earn a very good check for a modest entry fee. Usually, pros expect to pay an entry fee around $1,000 to play for a $15,000 first place prize.”
Format for the Southern Open is 54 holes of stroke play. The field will be split for the first two days, with half playing the first round at Cabarrus Country Club and half at Kannapolis Country Club. That will be flipped for the second round. After two days, the field will be cut to the top 60 and ties for Sunday’s final round at Cabarrus Country Club.
Amateurs with verifiable handicaps of 4.0 are encouraged to enter. They will compete against the full field, but also have their own prize pool. A certain number of amateurs will make the cut, based on their number of entries. Entry fees are $440 for pros and $275 for amateurs.
“Having the opportunity to play with professionals is a big thing for top-notch amateurs, especially if they’re trying to decide to go to the next level,” said Wortham. “With amateurs in the mix, and college guys, and young professionals, it should help the fan base. Down the road, we look to have large galleries. We want to get everybody involved, from the media to local businesses to golf fans. We think Cabarrus County, as the crown jewel of the greater Charlotte region, is a great draw.”