5 Takeaways from The Valspar Championship Media Day at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club
Better than most! Only a handful of pro events these days go to the effort and expense of hosting what’s commonly known as a media day and actually invite influencers to lose a few golf balls in the rough and then hear from the defending champion, title sponsor, and community leaders. Learning of all the plans that will soon come to fruition was a treat. I recently was among those invited, and here are my top 5 takeaways that those thinking of attending the Valspar Championship might find useful.
1 – Two-time defending champion Sam Burns says returning for his chance at a three-peat is a priority in 2023.
Burns spoke to a packed banquet room via Zoom, and when this writer asked him about the festive atmosphere here in the Tampa Bay area, the Louisiana native didn’t hold back any enthusiasm.
“I really enjoy the Valspar Championship. It has such a great vibe. The fans are tremendous. The players all respect the Copperhead Course and enjoy the event. I’ve met so many great people there, the staff, the volunteers, the kids in the gallery. My wife, Caroline and I are really looking forward to being back in Tampa Bay.”
Burns will be vying for the first back-to-back-to-back victories on the PGA TOUR since 2011, when Steve Stricker delivered at the John Deere Classic.
2015 Valspar Champion Jordan Spieth, a two-time JDC and three-time Major winner, is also returning for the March 13-18 PGA TOUR event on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.
The early commitments also include this year’s Ryder Cup Captains, Luke Donald, and Zach Johnson. According to the tournament’s Executive Director Tracy West, Donald, a former World No. 1, will receive a sponsor exemption. Johnson, a two-time Major winner, is seeking his first TOUR victory in seven years, while Donald won this event in a playoff back in 2012.
2 – The opening round, Thursday, March 16th, is Rondé Barber Appreciation Day, presented by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Barber serves as the tournament’s General Chairman and will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August. The Bucs and Valspar Championship are teaming up to honor him, and fans are being encouraged to wear Buccaneers (and Barber) gear.
The first 5,000 patrons through the entrance will receive a commemorative gift. At the conclusion of the play, around 7 pm, there’s a tribute for Barber on the 18th green with videos and a distinguished roster of guests.
The tournament is operated by Copperhead Charities, of which Barber is a member. This year, the total charitable impact since 1977 should surpass the $50 million mark.
“Playing football was my passion and this community has been amazing,” said Barber, who set an NFL defensive back record with 215 consecutive starts in his 16-season career. “Now, I am fully committed to supporting the Valspar Championship, making it the best possible PGA TOUR event and we raise a lot of money for local charities.”
3 – Hootie is in the House as Darius Rucker Stars in Valspar LIVE, presented by Chick-fil-A
On Saturday, March 18th, after third round play concludes on the golf course, the former lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish takes the stage on the nearby Osprey Driving Range for the 8th Valspar LIVE presented by Chick-fil-A concert event. It’s a 90-minute concert performance, and admission is free for all ticketed golf fans.
A three-time GRAMMY winner, the now solo artist has released four No. 1 albums on the Billboard Country chart and has topped the charts at Country radio 10 times with hit singles, including his 9x Platinum version of “Wagon Wheel,” one of the top five best-selling Country songs of all time, and, most recently, “Beers and Sunshine.”
Don’t expect Rucker to perform in a Barber or Buccaneers jersey, as he and I share an intense passion for Florida’s original NFL franchise, The Miami Dolphins.
4 – The Valspar Championship Might Just Be the Clubhouse Leader on The Florida Swing
While The Players, with an incredible field and purse, is certainly in a class by itself, organizers here in Tampa Bay have grown something very special at Innisbrook.
Last year, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan announced that their neighbor to the east, the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, would be among “elevated” events meaning a dramatic increase in prize money. The Valspar Championship and the Honda Classic in Palm Beach were not among the chosen few. While Honda chose to vacate its long-running sponsorship, West, Barber, The Copperheads, and title sponsor Valspar (a manufacturer of interior and exterior paint, stains, and sealers) continue to do a phenomenal job elevating this event within their means.
“We try to have something for everyone,” added West. “With Valspar’s support over the last ten years, we’ve been able to grow beyond a nationally televised Pinellas County event. We not only pull from the entire Tampa Bay region, but Naples on up and Tallahassee on down. We are lucky to be the only PGA TOUR event on this side of the state. We have ticket holders from all over Florida and from 48 of the 50 states so tourism is important to us.”
New in 2023, the self-described “The most colorful PGA TOUR tournament in the world” will introduce The Rooftop presented by DEX Imaging and designed by Ashley at the 18th green. Nestled above the luxury suites, The Rooftop contains an all-inclusive premium bar, food for purchase, and entertainment between groups. Colt Knost of CBS Sports will host all four days while interacting with surprise guests. Popular local DJ Fresh will enhance the vibe.
5 – Fans with Only a Grounds Ticket Will Have Plenty to See and Do
Kids, fully grown and not so much, can enjoy the Florida Blue Family Fun Zone located between the 8th green and 9th fairway. It’s an interactive area featuring games, including a putting course.
West vividly presented a grand buildout, including the Publix Chillounge between the 8th hole and 9th tee and Frenchy’s Pool Party near the 1st tee box. At the turn, they are constructing the Josh Cellars Wine Garden, the Celebrity Cruises Luxury Deck, and an all-new Expo Grove with exhibitors and contests.
As the fans walk the back nine, they’ll pass by the Horse Soldier (whiskey) Lounge near the 10th green, the 13th green is the Maestro Dobel Margarita Deck, and the Michelob ULTRA CLUB has moved to the 14th fairway.
Near the 18th green is the Valspar Block Party at the Tampa General Hospital Courtyard, which features Valspar’s 2023 Colors of the Year and some of the most colorful miniature replica homes.
Several premium ticketed viewing areas with food and beverage included for upgraded ticket purchases are being built. The Hooters Owl’s Nest returns to the 12th green/13th tee area, while the 16th and 17th holes will feature Snake Pit Clubs presented by Ketel One at 16 and AmeriLife at 17.
To learn more, visit www.ValsparChampionship.com