Diamond Resorts has been sponsoring golf tournaments since 2013, when PGA TOUR professional Brian Gay offered to lend his name to the inaugural event to help raise money for Florida Hospital for Children. More than 300 golfers, celebrities and spectators attended the event, which included a celebrity-only golf tournament with a $40,000 purse.
In 2014, the tournament expanded to include professional players and a private headline concert by country music artist and Diamond Celebrity ambassador Colt Ford. It was after this tournament that Mike Flaskey, tournament founder and Diamond Resorts CEO, realized that the company had captured “lightning in a bottle.”
Flaskey used his connections in the sports industry to continue growing the tournament in 2016, and officially changed the name to the Diamond Resorts Invitational. For the first time, it was nationally televised on Golf Channel, featured a Modified Stableford scoring format and included a $500,000 purse. It was a groundbreaking event and quickly caught media and spectator attention.
In 2017, the tournament became a PGA TOUR Champions Challenge Season event with 27 PGA TOUR Champions players, three LPGA players and 48 other amateur celebrity players. Threesomes included one professional and two celebrities playing their own ball from the same tees for separate purses totaling $1.2 million. The once amateur golf tournament had grown into a week-long, full-scale, multidimensional vacation experience. And the fun only continued in 2018, with a similar tournament format.
But everything is changing for 2019.
The Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions Presented by Insurance Office of America launched in January 2019 as a brand new, one-of-a-kind tournament, bringing back a winners-only event that the LPGA hadn’t held in more than a decade. As an official LPGA tournament and the 2019 season opener, the event featured 26 LPGA winners from the 2017 and 2018 seasons competing for $1.2 million in official prize money. The champions were joined on the course by 49 sports and entertainment celebrities competing for their own $500,000 purse, along with several amateur golfers, who qualified in the event’s pro-am to play during official tournament rounds.
After four days of exciting play, LPGA’s Eun-Hee Ji claimed the professional title, finishing the tournament at 14-under par. Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer pitcher John Smoltz clinched the celebrity top spot with a score of 149 under the modified Stableford format.