NAPLES, Fla. – Rose Zhang wasn’t even born the last time the PGA Tour and LPGA held a mixed-team event. Ludvig Aberg was a mere 2 months old in December of 1999, when legends Laura Davies and John Daly won the final edition of the JCPenney Classic.
For generations of players, what took place this week at the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitation was a new concept – and they want more of it.
“We need to do this for the game of golf,” said Billy Horschel of bringing the two tours together. “We do a lot of stuff that looks out for the players, but we need to make sure we are taking care of the fans and thinking about the fans more.”
Speaking of fans, there were more at Tiburon Golf Club than at previous QBE Shootouts and CME Group Tour Championships. Cheyenne Knight teed off early with partner Tom Hoge and was surprised by the number of fans on the first tee. Ticket sales and concession sales doubled this week compared to last year’s QBE and hospitality sold out, according to tournament officials.
Knight hopes some of these local fans come back next year for the CME, where the winner will receive a $4 million first-place check, the largest in all of women’s sports.
Joel Dahmen marveled at the number of kids he saw this week, particularly little girls, far more than an average week on the PGA Tour, he said. He called watching Lexi Thompson’s ace on Saturday one of the highlights of his year, and said he’d like to see the Grant Thornton field expand from 16 teams in 2024.
“There’s no reason we can’t have more mixed-team events,” said Dahmen after Saturday foursomes. “There are so many events on the PGA Tour, ratings aren’t always amazing in some of those fields. To bring in the women’s game would be awesome.
“I was completely outclassed today by Lexi.”
Early week buzz at the Grant Thornton was overshadowed by U.S. Golf Association and R&A rollback news and Jon Rahm to LIV Golf drama, controversies that dominated the golf chatter on social media and beyond. The action at Tiburon, however, provided a much-needed escape from that which divides golf fans.
The Grant Thornton was a celebration of what unites – camaraderie, competition and inspiration. Thursday’s…