Is Concession ready to become a yearly PGA Tour stop? Rory McIlroy and others weigh in.

Doug Fernandes, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
·6 min read

BRADENTON, Florida – Players at the first World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession Golf Club scored birdies, pars and bogeys. A few carded double and triple bogeys during the four-day event, but only one ace, on the par-3 sixth hole.

But the most impressive ace was reserved for The Concession itself, and anyone involved with the tournament’s production who helped make Ty Votaw one happy PGA head honcho.

According to the executive vice president of the International PGA Tour, with just 45 days to prepare for an event just below a Major, The Concession, in the parlance of baseball, hit it out of the park.

Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the International PGA Tour.
Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the International PGA Tour.

Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the International PGA Tour. (Doug Fernandes/Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

“It was an amazing week relative to what was able to be done, in a short amount of time, with a dedicated club in The Concession,” Votaw said. “I think the feedback from everybody … is it’s been a wonderful week. I think people of the Sarasota-Bradenton area who knew of The Concession, those people who have played The Concession, knew it was a gem.

“And now the rest of the world does, too, because of the worldwide television coverage that we enjoyed and how you’ve got a golf course that gives up birdies and eagles in bunches, and you’ve got a golf course that can jump up and grab you and give you a double, triple, quad.”

While a course record was set during the four days and more than 10 players finished at minus-10 or better, 32 players ended the tourney at even or in plus territory.

“All the way through the leaderboard,” Votaw said. “(The course) is a test. You want a golf course that tests you. You want a golf course that helps (you) score, but also you can’t be complacent. The people who are watching around the world are looking at this and seeing what the best players in the world are doing to it. Some are struggling, some are doing great.”

COVID-19 forced the event formerly known as the Mexico Championship to be relocated to The Concession. With a shortage of time to prepare, Votaw said the necessary infrastructure of food vendors, restrooms, security and volunteers wasn’t in place to allow more fans. Initially, it was thought no spectators would be allowed to attend, but tickets were made available to members, each costing $400, a price tag Votaw defended.

“These are the best players in the world,” he said. “Forty-eight of the top 50 players in the world, and it’s really a question of what the market will bear. Even with the number of fans that we had here, it’s been a success.”

With more time to prepare, Votaw said, a tournament buzz could have been created within the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

“More time to market the sale of tickets and create that momentum,” he said. Concession president Bruce Cassidy said he’d like his club to host a PGA event similar to the Workday Championship every few years.

For that, the course may have to be expanded to accommodate more fans and vehicles. “You’d have to make some adjustments,” Votaw said. “(Cut some) trees down. The good thing is, 10,000 people out here would look like 20,000 to some degree.”

So, Votaw will head back to his bosses at PGA Tour headquarters with a glowing report on The Concession and its first foray into hosting a major professional tournament.

“If there was a negative, I didn’t hear it.”

So what was the reaction from players?

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy walks the second green during the final round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession on February 28, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What Rory McIlroy said about Concession

“It’s a great golf course. It’s sort of a typical Florida layout. It sort of reminds me a little bit of the Bear’s Club. I guess Jack had a hand in this with Tony Jacklin. Sort of generous off the tees, but if you start missing fairways, not much rough and you sort of get into trouble in the brush and the trees,” Rory McIlroy said after playing his practice round.

“It’s a big golf course, undulating greens, and I think that’s sort of the defense … you know, they can tuck some pins away here and put them in some difficult spots.

“I think this course has been really well received this week. Maybe there was a couple of greens that are a little severe, a couple of pin placements anyway over the weekend that were maybe a touch severe, but I think when we come back again that the guys who set the golf course up will know that. Yeah, I liked it, I think it’s convenient for a lot of guys and I think everyone enjoyed it.”

Jon Rahm plays his shot from the 15th tee during the second round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession on February 26, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

What Jon Rahm said about Concession

“It’s a great golf course. It’s a challenging golf course tee to green, difficult. Greens are difficult.

“This golf course right here, you’ve got a lot of like tabletop areas, right, where you hit a shot into the green and everything just runs away from the pin. A great example is the seventh hole, everything on the back right area, everything just goes away from the pin … if you can put the ball in the right spot, you’re going to be able to make some putts. It’s not easy. They’re tricky, they’re very difficult. Wouldn’t be surprised if statistically they play as some of the hardest ones all year.”

Billy Horschel plays his shot from the eighth tee during the second round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession on February 26, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What Billy Horschel said about Concession

“I think this is a great golf course. I’ve always been a big fan of a course that, as I say, you can’t fake it. Maybe you can fake it one or two days, but you can’t fake it for four days. And this is one of those courses. You’ve got to hit the ball great every day, you got to hit it solid. You’ve got to have control of your golf ball from tee to green.

“You have to have control of distance, direction. You’ve got to think about where you’re hitting the shots into the greens or maybe even off tees. I think this is a great golf course. I think our rules staff did an unbelievable job this week of setting it up. I think they could have I think the superintendent would have loved to have seen the greens be a little firmer, a little faster. I’m sure he wasn’t happy 18 under won, but it’s such a fine line of maybe a foot faster or a little bit firmer and some of these pin locations become pretty stupid, and we look pretty stupid. And you don’t want to make us look stupid when we hit good golf shots.

“You’ve seen when that happens at a certain major and we don’t need to do that on the PGA Tour.”