A vodka-infused cocktail party at a swank South Beach club. A glitzy fashion show featuring Carolina Herrera. A Travie McCoy concert. And a VIP lounge, where women in stilettos will be escorted in chauffeur-driven Escalades.
All that and more is part of a major event coming to South Florida in early March.
But it’s not another fashion or swim week, music festival or art event. It’s the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at the Trump National Doral Miami resort. And it’s being transformed into a glamorous, sexy, multifaceted event as its organizers hope to lure in a younger, hipper, more affluent crowd, tipping their golf caps to a Miami vibe.
“It will be fun,” said Butch Buchholz, the founder and former chairman of the Sony Open Tennis Tournament, who was brought out of retirement to be chairman of the Cadillac Championship. “We’re bringing South Beach to Doral.”
The Cadillac Championship runs March 5-9, with more food, more drinks, more fashion, and more music and entertainment than ever before.
“Miami is an event town,” said David Pillsbury, president of Championship Management at the PGA Tour, which operates the championship. “To be big, you have to be relevant to a large audience, and to be relevant to a large audience, you have to delve into the environment of entertainment, fashion and food.”
Of course, for golf aficionados, the centerpiece of the Cadillac Championship is the world-class, four-day, 72-hole golf tournament, to be held at Trump Doral’s completely redesigned Blue Monster course. The tournament will feature 70 of the world’s top golfers, including last year’s winner, Tiger Woods, as well as Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.
Since Donald Trump’s Trump Hotel Collection bought the Doral resort for $150 million in June 2012, he and his family have poured $250 million into renovation and reconstruction, including redesigning the legendary Blue Monster course. The resort, which dates back to 1962, had lost some of its luster by the time its hedge fund and realty trust owners put it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2011. Trump and his adult children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric, have all played a role in the renovations.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the course’s official opening on Feb. 6, Trump recalled his first visit to Doral, 50 years ago.
“Many years ago, I would come to Doral with my father, Fred Trump, and we would play golf,” Donald Trump told the crowd gathered for the event. “Who would have ever thought the Trump family would some day own this 800-acre parcel of land?”
To revamp the course, Trump brought in well-known golf course architect Gil Hanse, who said that Trump gave him the opportunity to create something spectacular. “Donald kept saying ‘It’s got to be better, it’s got to be bigger,’ ” Hanse said.
Among enhancements to the course, Hanse said he paid particular attention to the views fans would have during tournament play, including building spectator mounds to provide better sight lines. The driving range has also been expanded, with lights for night-time practice.
“We just stood out there and looked at the land and decided we were going to do the whole thing right,” Trump said. “We’re trying to do something good for golf. We could have just put up a couple of palm trees and it would have been acceptable, but it would not be the right thing to do.”
The 650-room and suite Trump National Doral, with 100,000 square feet of catering and meeting space, is still undergoing renovations. By the time the tournament begins, the resort’s 60,000 square-foot clubhouse will have been completely renovated, with additions such as a third ballroom, a new BLT Prime and other food and beverage outlets, said David Feder, Trump National Doral’s vice president and managing director. The clubhouse’s retail shop and fitness center also have been redone.
“Doral is a very important place, very iconic, and important to Miami and the community,” Trump said after the reception, seated inside a private room in the members’ clubhouse.
About a third of the resort’s hotel rooms have been renovated, with final renovations expected in about six months, Trump said.
“When it is completed, this will be the finest golf resort, easily in the United States, and the best location,” said Trump, a powerhouse real estate and golf course developer known for his sweeping statements. His company’s holdings include Trump Tower, the Trump Hotel Collection, and golf courses in New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Palm Beach, the Grenadines, Scotland, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Local golf experts applaud the Blue Monster’s overhaul.
“The golf course is sensational now,” said Charlie DeLucca, president of the Dade Amateur Golf Association, president of DeLucca Enterprises, which manages golf courses, and managing partner at Melreese Country Club in Miami. “It’s set up so its friendly to the people watching.”
Just as Trump’s resort in Doral has gone through a “rebirth,” so has the tournament, said the PGA Tour’s Pillsbury.
For the past two years, the event has ventured into music and fashion, culminating with this year’s creation of a full-fledged social and entertainment event. It’s an effort to broaden the cultural experience, “to make the event more relevant to a broader spectrum of fans in Miami this year than just the golf spectator,” said Pillsbury, who is based in Ponte Vedra.
Kicking off the Cadillac Championship on March 4 will be “Opening Drive,” a party at Hyde Beach at the SLS South Beach, featuring Grey Goose and other premium brand cocktails, Cadillac displays, sushi from Katsuya, a Japanese restaurant in South Beach and culinary options from Bazaar, a restaurant at the SLS Hotel South Beach. The exclusive event, for players and tournament VIPs, is geared to set the hip tone for the championship’s new South Beach allure.
“It’s an international city, and we’re going to try to make this an international event like the tennis tournament,” said Buchholz, who has brought in sponsors like Ocean Drive magazine to give help give the tournament a luxury cachet.
“Miami should be really proud that the PGA and the tournament organizers are bringing such high level talent to our city to have something like this,” said Lana Bernstein, vice president of public relations and marketing for Niche Media, which publishes Ocean Drive magazine. “It’s world class and really cements where Miami is going.”
Indeed, upscale events have been crafted to create a whole new identity, catering to women as well as men. For the first time this year, for example, the tournament will offer an Escalade Lounge, “where spikes meet stilettos,” Pillsbury said. Located at the 16th green, the lounge will give patrons the best views of the newly renovated 16th hole. The VIP experience includes shuttles back and forth from the Trump Doral Clubhouse in 2015 Cadillac Escalades.
Once inside the lounge, forget swilling beer out of a bottle. The upscale venue will have Grey Goose and Bacardi cocktails, celebrity chef tastings and live DJ performances, along with celebrity and player appearances, Pillsbury said.
“We’re trying to get a younger, more affluent, more educated customer than we have had in the past,” said Steve Haener, national sales promotion manager for Cadillac, the title sponsor.
Better dressed, also, perhaps. Rather than just a sporting event where men in khakis and polo shirts watch the tournament, this year’s event offers “Fashion Friday,” an entire day focused on fashion. Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter, who has her own fashion, shoe and jewelry lines, will host the Friday evening fashion show featuring Carolina Herrera. DJ Irie will be playing music before and after the show.
On Saturday, the tournament will host a concert, headlined by Travie McCoy.
Heather Boucher used to go to the tournament with her golf-loving husband but sometimes found the eight-hour days boring. She stopped attending five years ago, but said she is excited to return this year, and will be “sneaking into the hospitality tents and watching fashion shows.”
“It’s really the best of both worlds, because you have golf for the men and fashion and fun for the ladies,” said Boucher, whose husband Michael is one of the Boucher Brothers, who own a pool and beach management company based in Miami Beach.
Numerous food options will also be added this year, from food trucks to gourmet meals, in various locations around the tournament. Among food trucks options are Che Grill’s Argentine cuisine, Il Fiorentino’s Italian dishes, and Pescados Unidos, which offers Latin-inspired seafood.
“Miami is an event town, and you need to understand you are in the entertainment business,” Buchholz said. “Last year, you couldn’t get a glass of champagne. Now, we’re going to have a Moet & Chandon Champagne Bar with sushi.”
Other upscale food and beverage venues include Versailles, an outgrowth of Versailles Restaurant, BLT Prime, with indoor and outdoor-seating, as well as concessions selling Shula Burgers.
“It’s going to be an amazing week,” said Trump, who says he tries to play golf every weekend. Many of his biggest deals were struck on a golf course, he said.
“You get to know people on a golf course so much better than at lunch,” Trump said.
For Cadillac, the tournament represents its biggest event of the year nationwide as this year marks its fourth as title sponsor, said Haener, who is based in Detroit but flew to Miami for the Blue Monster opening festivities.
Cadillac will have dozens of vehicles on display at the tournament, and is also creating a “V-Series Performance Center,” an interactive area that will offer a golf swing analysis via a simulator, a putting analysis and a Bridgestone ball fitting that will allow guests to identify what type of ball they should be using based on data from their swing. The center will also have CTS-V race car simulators.
“As a luxury brand, we want to be associated with the best of the best,” Haener said inside the members’ clubhouse, citing the combination of the top golf players, the Trump National Doral and the Blue Monster. “It’s a terrific backdrop to present our vehicles.”
As part of its effort to raise the Cadillac championship’s status as a must-attend event, the tournament also has brought in former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as honorary chairman. The Bush family has long had a connection to golf, beginning with Jeb Bush’s great-grandfather, George Herbert Walker, who was president of the USGA in 1920 and founded the Walker Cup.
Today, the Cadillac championship is one of just four World Golf Championships organized each year by the International Federation of PGA Tours. The others are the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Ariz.; the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio; and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Since the series began in 1999, it has generated $40 million for charities.
Proceeds from the Cadillac championship will go to a variety of charities. Last year, the tournament generated $855,000 for local charities, including the First Tee chapters of Miami and Doral, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Miami Children’s Hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, the United Way of Miami and the Miami Project/Nick Buoniconti Fund. This year, the goal is closer to $1 million, Buchholz said.
This year, said Trump: “My goal is to just have a spectacular tournament, and let people have fun, and raise a lot of money for charity.”