PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Since expanding her Florida resort portfolio last year, Sheila Johnson has had her eye on playing host to an LPGA event.
Last week at Innisbrook Golf Resort, site of the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship, the entrepreneurial Johnson, head of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, upped the ante for the women’s game. After meeting with a potential sponsor, she spoke about parlaying PGA Tour success into similar gains with the LPGA.
“My first baby step or grand step that I want to make is, I want to secure a LPGA event at our properties,” said Johnson, whose Salamander stable also includes Reunion Resort near Orlando and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast.
Salamander has dubbed its three courses that span mid-Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic “The Legends of Golf Trail.” To that end, Innisbrook hosts the ISPS Legends Tour Open Championship, the season-ending event on the LPGA’s version of the Champions Tour.
The LPGA, with only 15 of its 27 tournaments this year in the U.S., could use more domestic events. The season-ending CME Group Titleholders moved from Orlando to Naples this year. Reunion was site of a regular LPGA stop in 2006-08.
“Obviously the LPGA would be interested in listening to a concept like this one that allows the tour to put down permanent central Florida roots,” LPGA spokesman Kraig Kann said by email. “At this point, however, there have been no formal discussions between the two parties.”
Said Prem Devadas, Salamander’s president: “We’re in a time now where sponsors are making us work for them, for their money. It’s a case of trying to put the right package together, finding the right sponsor that believes in that particular sport.”