Annually in South Florida, this is the time many golfers set aside their clubs and decide to watch others with much-better swings than their own hit a golf ball.
There are five high-caliber tournaments – one professional and four involving amateurs – in the span of four weeks in December.
Holiday season is the height of golf-watching in South Florida as players from all over the U.S. and the world pour in to compete in the PGA Shell Latinoamerica Championship, the Doral-Publix Junior Classic, South Beach International Amateur and the Junior Orange Bowl International Championship. Broward County is also part of the parade of tournaments, offering Florida’s longest-running event, the Dixie Amateur.
Fans can see kids and adults ranging from age 6 to age 55 in these tournaments, and some of those 6-year-olds might be able to win a $5 Nassau against you even if they are too young to bet.
A rundown of the golf-watching season:
▪ The PGA Shell Latinoamerica Championship: Thursday through Sunday, International Links Melreese Country Club near Miami International Airport — This tournament is a first for Miami (it has never been played here before) and the International Links course (it has never been host to an official PGA Tour tournament).
The winner will receive $31,500, which comes up extremely short of the prize money for the last PGA Tour tournament in Miami — March’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral that offered $1.62 million to its winner.
The Latinoamerica field will consist of the top 60 Latinoamerica Tour players. More important than the money at stake to the competitors is that the top 10 finishers in this event will earn a berth in the Web.com Tour Championship with the possibility of earning their PGA Tour card there.
▪ Doral-Publix Junior Classic: 13-and-under division Dec. 18-19 and 14-and-older division Dec. 21-23, Trump National Doral courses — With approximately 700 players competing, this tournament has the biggest field of the holiday season and is run by The First Tee of Miami.
One familiar name who played in this event a long, long time ago is Rory McIlroy, who won the 8-9 age group in 1998. Later, McIlroy referred to the Doral-Publix as his “first major.”
The tournament, in its 35th year, offers more than golf to its young participants by emphasizing life values, including education.
“We’re much more than just a golf tournament,” said tournament founder Charlie DeLucca Jr. “So much more.”
▪ The South Beach International Amateur: Dec. 19-22, Miami Beach Golf Club and Normandy Shores Golf Club — The South Beach event, only in its sixth year, is the top-ranked annual tournament in Florida. It is also one of the top-ranked amateur tournaments in the world, checking in at No. 12.
Tournament director Jeff Hunt vows that next year the South Beach event will break into the top 10, joining the likes of the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur. There have already been requests by 60 college coaches to attend the tournament for scouting purposes.
Two former champions, Jorge Garcia (2015) and Gabriel Lench (2014), are coming back to try to win again. More than 31 countries will be represented at South Beach.
▪ Dixie Amateur: Dec. 19-22, men at Heron Bay and Eagle Trace and women at Woodlands Country Club — The Dixie Amateur in Broward County features a storied history that includes Tiger Woods playing in it – and he did not win, losing in the final as a 16-year-old. Sergio Garcia, Doug Ford, Hal Sutton, Brandt Snedeker, Erik Compton and Bruce Fleisher are some of the others names that are a part of the event’s history. The Dixie was first played in 1924 and this will be the 85th year of actual play.
▪ Junior Orange Bowl International Championships: Dec. 27-30, Biltmore Golf Course in Coral Gables — This tournament has both a boys’ and girls’ division and heads into its 53rd year.