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Local golf course secures prominent global tournament

Mark Parker

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The Feather Sound Country Club, at 2201 Feather Sound Dr. in Clearwater, will host the fourth annual Aramco Team Series. Photos provided.

A Saudi Arabian-backed international professional women’s golf competition will launch its 2024 series in Pinellas County at the Feather Sound Country Club.

The Aramco Team Series (ATS) will take over the local course from Friday, March 8, through Sunday, March 10. The unique tournament features internationally ranked players teaming up with amateur golfers to compete for a $1 million purse.

Feather Sound is the only U.S. stop on the international tour. Additional locations include Seoul, South Korea, London, an unannounced city in Asia and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The course is near the Howard Frankland Bridge, between St. Petersburg and Clearwater city limits. General manager Shane Crawford said ATS officials selected Feather Sound over a prestigious club in Sarasota.

“I think it’s a dream come true, frankly, for the staff that work that place every single day,” Crawford said. “Our owner, Dale Schmidt – I’m pretty sure he bought that course in hopes of getting it to this point someday.”

Feather Sound is a par-72, 7,332-yard course just outside St. Petersburg city limits.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) sponsors the ATS and its $5 million total purse. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud has recently used the PIF to heavily invest in several professional sports leagues, including the LIV Golf men’s tournament.

Crawford said ATS officials selected Feather Sound to host the season-opening event “about three or four weeks ago.” He noted that the club has condensed nearly a year of preparation into less than two months.

“It’s been hectic; not a lot of sleep on our end lately,” Crawford added. “But it’s happening, and it’s happening fast.”

Founded in 2021, the ATS uniquely pairs an amateur with three professionals in the team competition. Individual events are part of the Ladies European Tour.

The tournament will feature some of the world’s top-ranked women golfers. Those include England’s Charley Hull, No. 8, and Megan Khang, No. 13.

Florida native Lexi Thompson – ranked No. 36 globally  – will headline the U.S. participants. Her last victory came at the 2022 ATS event in New York.

“It’s always great to be able to compete at home with that local support,” Thompson said in a prepared statement. “Especially to do so in such a unique tournament that has so much collaborative spirit.”

Florida native Lexi Thompson, 29, is one of several globally ranked women’s golfers who will participate in the unique event. Photo: Aramco Team Series.

However, the ATS will also feature a hometown hero. Crawford noted two-time Major champion Brittany Linciome grew up in Pinellas Park and now lives in Gulfport.

She called Feather Sound “just a beautiful place” in an interview with ladieseuropeantour.com. “To be able to have other tour players come see my area and see this golf course is going to be a real treat,” Linciome added. “Because they’re going to love it.”

The event will highlight the area to a global audience. Crawford said the Golf Channel will broadcast the ATS to 140 countries.

He explained that Schmidt recently invested a “significant amount of money” into transforming Feather Sound into a championship-level golf course. Crawford called the tournament a “big deal” for the entire region.

“We’ve done everything we possible can so that … they’ll (ATS) look at us strongly to host this, or other tournaments, in the future,” he said.

The 2023 tournament included a U.S. stop at Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach. That followed a 2022 event at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in New York.

“You can tell that they (ATS) want to find a home,” Crawford said. “We’re hoping this isn’t just a one-and-done thing.”

He said residents could watch the professional golfers practice Tuesday and Wednesday, March 6 and 7. A March 8 pro-am event is also open to the public.

Crawford said ticket sales for the tournament “have gone a lot quicker and at a much higher level” than ATS or Feather Sound officials expected. He noted that only a few VIP passes remain.

Attendees can also participate in immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences at the “Aramco Energy Zone.” Crawford called the area an “amusement park for adults.”

“From a financial or promotional perspective, it’ll be better next year when we get more time to plan, and we can get more hotel rooms reserved in Pinellas County,” Crawford said. “But right now, the focus is just on making sure we do as best of a job as we can as a clubhouse and a golf club to make this happen.

“And then 30 days after the event, we’ll start pitching for the next time around.”

 

 

 

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