NORTH PORT — When 132 members of the LPGA’s Symetra Tour tee off on March 3 at the old Bobcat Trail course, it will signal the course’s return to prominence.
The 18-hole course, now redubbed Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail, is hosting the first tournament for 2019 for the tour.
The March 7-10 contest is called the SKIiGOLF Championship and has a purse of $250,000. The Symetra Tour is called the Road to the LPGA tour. SKIiGOLF is a new company based in North Port sponsoring it.
Charlotte Harbor National Golf Course at Bobcat Trail has undergone extensive renovations and improvements in the last 18 months.
Clubhouse improvements, course improvements and complete rebuilding of the bunkers are some of the changes since July 2017 when Rich and Ellen Smith purchased the facility.
“It was rundown,” Rich Smith said. “We put $700,000 alone into redoing the bunkers. Now they are as good as Augusta.”
He said the work on the facility is far from finished.
“Feedback on what we’ve done has been very, very positive. But there is a lot more that we plan to do.”
Smith is also the man behind SKYiGOLF. According to its website, it was created for professional golfers to introduce them to “fascinating technology and programs that will help you to more efficiently run your businesses, in turn make the playing experience better for your golfers.”
LPGA professional Paula Creamer has signed on with SKYiGOLF so far.
Luring a professional event to the course attests to its improving quality, said Ben Herring, a PGA professional assigned to the LPGA event.
“We are dedicated to having the LPGA and other professional events here in the future. North Port deserves to have professional golf events in the future and we fully plan to be the host course.”
Since the renovations began, memberships at the semi-private course have increased from 50 members to more than 200. Daily play is also up dramatically.
“Players are responding to how great we are making this course,” Smith said.
The LPGA tournament will run from March 3-7. Tournament admission for the public is free and VIP seats are selling for $15.
“We want the public to come out and see this place today,” Herring said. “We think they will agree: This course is back.”