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2nd Hotel Fitness to build on success


– One of the challenges the organizers of the Hotel Fitness Championship had last year was educating the public to just how significant the event would be in its first year.

“What I kept hearing out on the course was, ‘Wow, this is a big deal,’ ” said Eric Schneider, the general manager at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, which hosts the Tour event.

“ ‘Yeah, we told you it was a big deal.’ You could look at the 18th hole and see skyboxes surrounding the green. There were television cameras and the Golf Channel running around. Sycamore Hills had hosted events before, but the magnitude of this event for the community, for golf, for Fort Wayne, was huge. It was exciting.”

The inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship was won by Trevor Immelman, a former Masters champion, who finished the four-day tournament at 20 under and earned $180,000 of the $1 million purse.

“When I arrived at Sycamore Hills, I loved the golf course and felt comfortable there and ended up playing well all week,” Immelman said in a video interview, which was screened for media Monday at an event to promote this year’s tournament, which will be Aug. 28 to 31.

“I loved the old style golf course with the huge trees. It reminded me a lot of home in Cape Town, (South Africa), and I thought it was a beautifully designed golf course.”

Sycamore Hills, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, had played host to five national championships for the USGA and the PGA of America before the inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship, which is the first of four legs within the Tour’s Finals that determine PGA Tour cards.

“To have a former Masters champion, Trevor Immelman, win it – we’re still pinching ourselves to this day,” tournament director Duke Butler IV said.

“But on top of that, this is an event that’s about the community, Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana.”

Butler spoke about the coverage the Golf Channel gave to not just the tournament but also the attractions throughout northeast Indiana, and he said that the third-round coverage was the highest rated Tour event ever and that more than 5.5 million viewers tuned in throughout the week.

“It helps sell the story of northeast Indiana,” he said, adding that there were almost 27,000 spectators and that the goal for this year is to eclipse 35,000.

“I think that’s attainable.”

The field for the Hotel Fitness Championship will include the top 75 players on the Tour and those 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standings. Based on how it stands today, the field could include such famed golfers as Immelman, Mike Weir, Chad Campbell, David Duval and John Daly.

They will find a course that has been strengthened since last season to make it more difficult; 14 of 18 holes have been redesigned and the other four will be changed after this year’s tournament.

In addition raising charitable dollars for the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House and the Evans Scholars Foundation, the Hotel Fitness Championship is working with local sports teams – the Komets hockey team, TinCaps baseball team and Mad Ants basketball team – on Hometown Team Day. During the third round of the tournament, caddies and spectators will be encouraged to wear merchandise of those teams.

“I’m excited to see how things unfold this year,” said Bruce Dye, the CEO of Hotel Fitness, whose tournament is slated to take place at least through 2015 at Sycamore Hills.