East Manatee County’s premier golf course, The Concession, will host the most famous players from the Champions Tour in a Ryder Cup-like event.

The Concession Golf Club will once again receive worldwide attention when it hosts The World Champions Cup in December.
The Concession Golf Club will once again receive worldwide attention when it hosts The World Champions Cup in December.
Photo by Jay Heater

Most of the time, it’s quiet while walking the pristine 18 holes of The Concession Golf Club.

Moving through the meadows, wetlands, pine forests and oak hammocks provides a wilderness feel, except for the occasional hoot or holler from a golfer who sinks a long, undulating putt.

It’s a private community course, with no signs of the community. When Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus talked about designing the course, it was done with the understanding that houses at The Concession would be built somewhere else. And they were.

Aside from Golf Digest crowning The Concession as the Best New Private Course in America when it opened in 2006, fanfare has been kept to a minimum. It can be tough to be private if everyone is lining up at the gate to get a glimpse.

It’s safe to say now, though, the hidden gem is no longer hidden. The 2021 World Golf Championship took care of that, bringing the best golfers in the world to the course, and now comes the World Champions Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event for seniors, in December.

The World Champions Cup is a new event, sanctioned by the PGA Tour Champions, that will match U.S., European, and international teams.

“It is cool we are hosting the inaugural event,” says Brian Weimann, general manager of The Concession Golf Club. “The (LPGA) has the Solheim Cup, the (PGA Tour) has the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, and this was the missing piece of the puzzle. They want it to be a 100-year event.”

It will be a first for The Concession in that it will be hosting throngs of fans, who will be expecting to see legends of the game among the six-player teams.

While the 2021 World Golf Championship drew 47 of the top 50-ranked players in the world, fans were not allowed on the course due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only invited guests and those who lived at The Concession were allowed to attend.

However, the message was delivered through the media, including NBC and its affiliates, with worldwide coverage of the event. The Concession was introduced to golf fans all over the world, in a good way.

PGA Tour player Billy Horschel compared the greens to Augusta National, the revered course that hosts the Masters. Patrick Reed, now playing on the LIV Golf tour, called the course “awesome” and Rory McIlroy said he couldn’t wait until another PGA event was scheduled there.

Jim “Bones” Mackay, the current caddy of PGA Tour star Justin Thomas, coined a phrase by saying The Concession “had several places around the course where you could lose a few strokes, and a few places you could lose a limb.”

His statement was in reference to the alligators that often caught the attention of the television cameras.

But then the PGA Tour packed its bags and left, and golf fans had to wonder if the world’s best golfers would return. The only reason The Concession was able to host the World Golf Championship was because COVID-19 forced cancellation of the event in Mexico City.

On Dec. 7, 9, and 10, the wait for a world-class event comes to an end. Already committed to the event are the three teams’ playing captains Ernie Els (Team International), Darren Clarke (Team Europe), and Jim Furyk (Team USA). All are majors champions.

And this time, fans can buy tickets (which go on sale on Labor Day) to attend.

“The first time I saw Concession was during the WGC,” says Jason Langwell, the executive vice president of Intersport, which owns and will promote the World Champions Cup. “It is a classic, incredible golf course. It is fan-friendly with a beautiful clubhouse. If you are a fan on the back nine, there are places where you can just turn your head and see action on three different holes.

“Could we create an incredible experience here? Yes.”

Weimann and his staff are busy with preparations to create that incredible experience, even though he says the course needs little work.

Brian Weimann says The Concession doesn’t have to make many changes to host The World Champions Cup because it is in tournament-shape every day.
Photo by Jay Heater

“Golf-wise, in between the ropes, we don’t have to change anything,” Weimann says. “We pride ourselves on being tournament-ready every day. I’ve always wanted to see a match-play event on this course. It sets up well for it because it is a very strategic course, a second-shot course.”

However, with 3,000 to 7,000 golf fans expected each day, Weimann and his staff will need to alter some areas of the course to provide the fans with seating and the ability to move from hole to hole.

“Logistically, it is a different feel,” Weimann says. “We are going to have bigger crowds and the numbers make it more of a challenge. But the staff is focused on this, and it is a fun challenge. I enjoy it, but these things do take a long time to plan.”

Weimann calls it the next step in The Concession owner Bruce Cassidy’s desire to host a major. Cassidy has spoken of his desire to make a bid to host the 2031 U.S. Open. However, that event is in June, so it might be a tough sell in Florida. The PGA Championship is held in May and has site commitments through 2030 (and 2034).

“This will be similar to the (World Golf Championship) in that it will showcase the club throughout the country, and internationally,” Weimann says of the World Champions Cup. “It is another chance for The Concession to be seen by the masses. It is our next step to the future.”

The match-play event will be played on the back nine holes of The Concession, which will be called holes Nos. 1 through 9 for the event. Those holes normally are Nos. 10-18.

“Our No. 18 is a great finishing hole, so logistically, it made sense (to use the club’s back nine),” Weimann says.

After this event, Weimann says The Concession will continue to be in the market for “one-offs.” He says the club doesn’t want annual events that would take over the course at the same time each year. Examples of “one-offs” would be the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and other events that change venues each year.

Langwell says Intersport is interested in a long-term relationship with The Concession, although he says it hasn’t been decided how the future schedule will look. That will be a topic the day after this event is finished.

“These are people you want to lock arms with,” he says of Weimann and Cassidy. “We love The Concession.”