Fallen Oak "welcomes the world" for PGA golf - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Fallen Oak "welcomes the world" for PGA golf

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Golf on the Mississippi Gulf Coast will be featured on a world stage next month. Organizers of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic say the tournament will feature familiar names from the PGA tour and bring millions of dollars in economic impact.

Lee Trevino, Bernhard Langer and Paul Azinger are among the pros who will tee it up next month at Fallen Oak golf course in Harrison County.

The tournament field is a virtual who's who of past champions, including Jerry Pate, who was at Fallen Oak on Monday to promote the event.

Pate promises those golf fans who attend the tournament next month, won't be disappointed in the level of play.

"It's amazing to me. These guys on tour, I promise you, guys like Jay Haas, Loren Roberts, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson and now Freddie Couples. I swear, they play better now than they ever did. I don't know how they do it. I think it's 'cause they don't have the pressure on them like they did in the old days. You're going to see some great competition," said Pate, who's from nearby Pensacola.

Tournament chairman Anthony Topazi said while golf is the focus, the impact of the event reaches far beyond these 18 holes.

"It's approximately $20 million, the economic impact. And that's direct from this one event. But the sustaining opportunity to grow this tourism business on the coast, I think is terrific," said Topazi.

"The Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic is just another example and a symbol of the coast's tourism recovery and our stride to become a tier one tourist destination," said Nik Rytterstrom with Beau Rivage Resort.

Later in the week, workers will begin building special stands around the 18th green.

"We'll have sky boxes starting in that open section. And it will come all the way up the right side and around the back of the 18th green, as well as we'll have a public grand stand for about 250 to 300 people," said tournament director, Steve Nieman.

Sponsorship of this tournament brings something different to the Champions Tour. Normally, it's a single, large corporate sponsor that puts on such an event, but not this time.

It's a group of area businesses getting together to back the tournament.

"Because it's in our best interest that we host this event, and so we think this is a very strong, sustainable model to have this," said Topazi.

The dates for the tournament are April 28th through May 2nd. Seventy-eight players will compete for the $1.6 million purse, which includes $240,000 for the winner.

Tickets are $15 each and on sale now through Ticketmaster.

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