By DAVID BORAKS
River Run Country Club is getting ready for its closeup, the biggest moment in its 22-year history. From Sept. 2-8, the golf course designed by Robert Walker and Raymond Floyd will host the Chiquita Classic, one of four important late-season tournaments on the 2013 Web.com tour.
For golfers, it will be the second of four “Tour Finals” that will determine who gets to move up to the PGA Tour next year. Professional golf has overhauled the way it promotes players to the PGA Tour, using the Web.com tour as the main qualifier.
The Web.com tour has gained importance in the U.S. professional golf world. When it stated 24 years ago, it was a sort of developmental minor for the sport, according to tour official Bill Calfee. Not any more: It’s now an important circuit, attracting the sports top golfers – some on their way up, some shifting back and forth between the Web.com tour and the PGA tour.
“I look at this now as a form of expansion,” Calfee said at a press conference at River Run Monday. Now, he added, “this is the path the PGA Tour.”
The field for the River Run and other “Tour Finals” will include the top 75 money-winners from the Web.com tour and players ranked Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour. All will be battling it out for 2014 PGA tour cards – the right to play the top tournaments in the land.
Said Web.com pro Ben Martin, a 2009 Clemson University graduate: “It’s going to be an important event, and an exciting event. There’s a lot on the line. I’m looking forward to teeing it up in a few weeks.”
For River Run officials and members, it’s a chance to host a major competition with a $1 million purse. And the club has been working hard to get it ready, especially after this summer’s record rainfall and flooding at the course.
“We’ve had 400 percent of normal rainfall,” said Greg Murphy, a River Run board member who is overseeing the club’s hosting of the tournament. “But the course has recovered nicely.”
Calfee agreed. “We’ve got a great golf course here at River Run,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of rain, but it’s in great shape, competitive and it will be very challenging.”
Part of the challenge will come from longer holes: River Run officials have installed five new tees.
The course is hosted by the Charlotte region’s newest large corporate citizen, Chiquita Brands, which moved its headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte last year.
Brian Kocher, Chiquita’s chief operating officer, said the event helps the company’s brands, but it also is aimed at helping the area’s nonprofits. The tournament has chosen the United Way of Central Carolinas as its primary charitable beneficiary. Dozens of other charities in the area are benefiting by selling tickets to the tournament and keeping 100 percent of the proceeds.
“We live here. We brought a couple of hundred people here and we hired another hundred,” Kocher said Monday. “This is our community now.”
Learn more about the Chiquita Classic tournament and buy tickets, www.chiquitaclassic.com
Watch a video explaining how the Web.com Tour and Tour Finals will qualify players for next year’s PGA Tour.
The United Way of Central Carolinas is the main beneficiary of the Chiquita Classic. But many other area charities also are part of the event. Nonprofits get to keep 100 percent of the tickets they sell. To buy a ticket, contact the organizations directly or go to www.chiquitaclassic.com
United Way of Central Carolinas
Ada Jenkins Families; Careers Development Center
Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen
Autism Foundation of the Carolinas
Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue
Carolina Comfort Coalition
Carolina Thread Trail
Catawba Lands Conservancy
Charlotte Community Health Clinic
Communities in Schools -Charlotte
Community Culinary School of Charlotte
Community Free Clinic
Davidson Elementary School PTO
Davidson Housing Coalition
Disability Rights & Resources
Dress for Success Charlotte
Friends of the Animals
Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council
Greater Lake Norman Young Life
La Escuelita Bilingual Preschool
Lake Norman Christian School
Lake Norman YMCA
LAMB Foundation of North Carolina
Leg Up Rescue
Logan Community Child Development Center
Make a Wish Foundation – Central & Western North Carolina
Misty Meadows Riders
Music at St. Alban’s
One By One Costa Rica
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity
Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center
Pregnancy Resource Center
Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte
Rotary Club of Lake Norman Huntersville
Speedway Children’s Charities
Teen Health Connection
The Arc of Mecklenburg County
The Center for Community Transitions
The First Tee of Charlotte
The Printing Industry of the Carolina’s Foundation
The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Greater Charlotte
The Salvation Army of Cabarrus County
Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry
University City YMCA