ACE on the move to new home

Tournament expects record crowds at Quail West Golf & Country Club, its 7th location in 20 years

Organizers of The ACE Group Classic didn’t send out change of address cards. That doesn’t mean this week’s Champions Tour event will be without its usual flock of fans.

Tournament officials are expecting record crowds to come and see golf’s legends and the new venue, Quail West Golf & Country Club.

This is the seventh time in 20 years the tournament has changed locations. In any other business, this could spell financial suicide. But with a new golf course in a different part of town and partly in a new county, the move has pumped new energy into the over-50 circuit event.

Ticket sales are up. And besides a Champions Tour equipment truck getting stuck in some mud on Friday afternoon, the transition from the Club at TwinEagles, the host the past four years, to Quail West has been a smooth one.

“The community support is the main reason this event has been such a success,” said David Shoemaker, the tournament’s operations director. “From the beginning, the community, the fans, and the volunteers have embraced this event, and with each move it has grown. With each move we have picked up even more fans.”

Tournament director Jason Camp is expecting the event this week to top the all-time attendance record.

In 2005, 99,300 spectators turned out during the week. Sales of the Golf Book, which includes admission to the ACE and discounted rounds of golf at area courses, are significantly up this year.

With that, Camp is expecting to surpass the 100,000 fan mark for the first time in tournament history.

Adding to the influx is the tournament’s move north.

Quail West, which is owned by the Ginn Co., straddles the Lee and Collier County border. Actually, the front nine holes will be played in Collier and the back nine in Lee.

As Camp says, the club might have a Naples address but the tournament will be won in Bonita Springs.

Shallen McClain, the tournament coordinator in charge of ticket sales, said 60 percent of this year’s ticket buyers are unique customers. She said the move to the Collier/Lee border, in addition to doubling the size of the Golf Book and 2-for-1 deals, all have been pluses.

“People are excited about seeing a new course,” said McClain, who previously worked at NASCAR before joining the ACE staff. “We are getting calls from people in Cape Coral to Sarasota. The move has been nothing but a positive.”

This wasn’t a middle-of-the-night, back-up-the-Mayflower, Indianapolis Colts move.

The contract between ACE and TwinEagles had expired. The Bonita Bay property had sold all of the homes and the members no longer wanted to give up their golf course for the week. With seven change of venues in 20 years, this is obviously common.

Finding a new location for the ACE turned into an “open call,” Camp said.

Three different golf properties, with three different owners, were in the running to be the new host. Camp said he used a grading system, which included attraction to the general public, location, traffic, course routing and walkability for the spectators.

“At the end of the day, Quail West and people at Ginn proved to be the best match for ACE,” Camp said. “Just the access from the highway and the aura of Quail West is something that proved to be very attractive.”

For Camp, this was his first move as tournament director. As someone who worked on the east coast in different capacities with the Florida Marlins, the Miami Dolphins and the Florida Panthers, the transition came naturally.

He didn’t have any concerns. He only had big ideas about what to do with the pristine property.

“I wasn’t worried, I was actually excited about the move with the prospect of starting it from scratch,” Camp said. “We were set in our footprint on the way we had to do things at TwinEagles, but we had 18 holes and not the 36 that we have here. So the ability to start the process and work with the tour to find the best 18 and set an event plan with a new facility presented a fun challenge.”

Shoemaker said setting up the course and the construction of bleachers and corporate tents is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Spectators should be happy with the move.

The new bleachers scheme allows for 950 fans compared with 650 last season. More than 1,400 fans fill the chalets and suites. And if you’re out following your favorite golfer and get tired, there will be a trolley system with four different stops throughout the course.

Camp compares the ACE to someone’s favorite restaurant. And he doesn’t think location is a detractor.

“If they have the best hamburgers in town, I will be there,” Camp said. “We have the best golfers, a great golf venue, and that’s a huge attraction.”

ACE Group Classic schedule:


All day. Professional Practice Rounds

All day. Open Qualifier at The West Bay Club, Estero

1 p.m. Official Monday Pro-Am


All day. Professional Practice Rounds

2:15 p.m. Quail West Members' Professional Clinic, behind Driving Range

6 p.m. Official Pro-Am Pairings Party (By Invitation Only)


7:45 a.m. Official Pro-Am Shotgun

12:30 p.m. Pro-Am Awards Party (By Invitation Only)

1 p.m. Official Pro-Am Shotgun

5:30 p.m. Pro-Am Awards Party (By Invitation Only)


7:45 a.m. Official Pro-Am Shotgun

12:30 p.m. Pro-Am Awards Party (By Invitation Only)

1 p.m. Official Pro-Am Shotgun

5:30 p.m. Pro-Am Awards Party (By Invitation Only)


7:55 a.m. First Round of Champions Tour play

1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. The Golf Channel Live telecast


9:30 a.m.

Second Round of Champions Tour play

1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. The Golf Channel Live telecast

The "Golf Doctor" Mike Calbot Exhibition Golf Show following play


9:30 a.m. Final Round of Champions Tour play

1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. The Golf Channel Live telecast

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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