All of a sudden, the PGA Tour is coming back to Miami.
OK, there is nothing remotely comparable in the status of the WGC-Cadillac Championship that left for Mexico City less than a year ago and the just announced Latinoamerica Tour Shell Championship that will make its Miami debut Dec. 1-4.
The WGC event at Trump National Doral paid $1.62 million to its winner. The upcoming Latinoamerica event will pay its winner $31,500. That’s a big difference — actually, a huge difference — but at least a PGA Tour event will be on display, and fans can watch some extremely proficient golfers.
Hosting the Latinoamerica event will be International Links Melreese Country Club, a well-known and excellent course abutting Miami International Airport. The golfers should get accustomed to low-flying planes and the roar of their engines as they come in for landings — so low that seemingly a lofted lob wedge shot looks as though it could hit the underbelly of the planes.
Charlie DeLucca runs International Links and the kid-oriented First Tee of Miami that is housed at the course.
DeLucca probably has a ton of official titles, but he really doesn’t care about that — two of his biggest loves are simply the golf course he runs and The First Tee kids he can help. The added spotlight of the Latinoamerica event might help him expand what he can accomplish in those areas, and he will gladly deal with that.
International Links ranks as one of Miami’s best-kept courses and as usual is in fine condition in preparation for its first PGA Tour event.
“The course is in really good shape,” DeLucca said. “It’s ready, so there is not a whole lot we have to do.”
There were a couple of provisos, though.
“They [the PGA Tour] will probably make us speed up the greens, grow the rough and cut the fairway grass shorter,” he said.
On such short notice, DeLucca does not expect huge crowds swarming the course for this year’s tournament.
“Maybe next year,” he said of an eventual larger crowd. “We want to get the community involved and have more charities make money. A lot of charities lost money when we lost the Doral event.”
Even the charity that DeLucca cares most about suffered a hit with the exit of the WGC event. DeLucca’s First Tee benefited by $150,000 from the Cadillac Championship. Losing that was a hard hit for DeLucca, but he is quick to point out, mainly a hit on his First Tee kids.
That said, DeLucca is looking forward, not backward.
“This is a great thing for the City of Miami,” he said. “It’s nice to manage a course that the PGA [Tour] has come to. We are a family out here working hard to make everything ready.”
That includes DeLucca himself, who is known for taking a golf cart on the course and constantly starting and stopping to pick up stray wrappers and to fill in divots.
“You can bet that I will be doing just that before the tournament begins,” he promised.
If you go
Tournament: Shell Championship.
Dates: Dec. 1-Dec. 4.
Course: International Links Melreese Country Club, Miami.
Par/yards: 71 (35-36); 6,676.
Purse: $175,000; winner’s share $31,500.
Field: Top 60 Latino America players after last full-field event (Visa Open de Argentina). There is no cut.