Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in Golf, PGA TOUR, The Spirit International | 0 comments

TRINITY, Texas—There’s more on the line this year than gold, silver and bronze medals at the Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship. For the first time, the winner of the Men’s Individual competition will receive a sponsor’s exemption to the PGA Tour’s 2014 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

“We want to support amateur golf,” said Bobby Patton, Tournament Chairman for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. “Amateur golfers grow up to be professional golfers, and that’s our business. It’s the right thing to do to get involved early.”

The Men’s Individual champion is determined by the most strokes under par during the 72 holes of team Four Ball competition at the Spirit International, which begins Wednesday at Whispering Pines Golf Club. The final round begins Saturday.

The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, played in Fort Worth on May 19-25, has a long history of promoting amateur golf. The invitational, won this year by Boo Weekley, has given one of its 14 unrestricted sponsor’s exemptions to the U.S. Amateur champion for the past 20 years. During the past 15 years, the winner of the Ben Hogan Award—given annually to the college golfer who best exhibits excellence in both athletics and academics—also receives a sponsor’s exhibition.

“We are a PGA TOUR invitational and a celebrated Texas tournament, and we wanted to do something to support the Spirit, another fine Texas tournament,” Patton said. “Ideally, it will come back to support us in the future.”

The Spirit International, a biennial event featuring four-person amateur teams from 20 countries, is played each year at Whispering Pines. The course has been voted “Best in Texas” for each of the past eight years by the Dallas Morning News. Colonial Country Club has been tethered together with Whispering Pines since it opened in 2000. Head Professional Chris Rowe was the First Assistant Professional at Colonial for 10 years before moving to Whispering Pines. General Manager Chad McCormick is a former Clubhouse Manager at Colonial.

Patton, too, is a Whispering Pines member.

“We really wanted to do something, but we didn’t just want to write a check,” he said. “We wanted to give the Spirit something money couldn’t buy.”

The Crowne Plaza at Colonial’s announcement came Sunday night during the Spirit’s opening ceremonies. The night featured a “Parade of Colors,” in which the 20 teams entered a ballroom at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel. Spirit International founder and Whispering Pines owner Corby Robertson emceed the event and gave a moving speech.

Jeff Morton, the former Southern Texas PGA official who passed away earlier this year, was honored. Morton was the STPGA’s Director of Operations for Rules and Competitions, as well as a former USGA and LPGA Rules Official.

South African Kim Williams, who this week makes her record fourth appearance as a competitor at the Spirit, received the “Spirit Honor Award.”

“This is absolutely the best tournament I’ve played in,” said Williams, the ninth-ranked amateur in the world. “What makes it so special is the spirit of friendship that exists on and off the course.”

At each Spirit International since the biennial event’s inception in 2001, five separate competitions take place at once. The field is comprised of four-person teams of two men and two women amateur from the top golfing countries as determined by the combined men’s and women’s results from most recent World Amateur Championships. The teams play 72 holes of Team Best Ball, and gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded for the Overall International Team competition, as well as Men’s and Women’s divisions.

The Men’s and Women’s Individual competitions are determined by “most strokes under par,” which amounts to a race for the most birdies and eagles during the four days of Four Ball sessions. The player on the Men’s Division who accomplishes that feat will play in next year’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

In past years, several prominent players have won gold medals in the Men’s Division, including PGA Tour star Brandt Snedeker in 2003 and former PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer in 2005. At the 2011 Spirit, there was a six-way tie for the Men’s Individual gold medal at 13 strokes under par. Both U.S. Team members Kelly Kraft and Nathan Smith shared a piece of that title.

This year, however, in the event of a tie there will be a playoff.

“If there’s a tie, we’ll go back to the 18th tee and play it off,” said Eric Fredericksen, Tournament Director for the Spirit International. “Imagine that drama—two or more players playing the 18th hole for a spot in the Colonial. Now that would be something special.”

For more information on the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial or this announcement, please contact Tournament Director Michael Tothe at mtothe@colonialfw.com or 817-840-2219.

The Spirit Golf Association, a 501© (3) charitable organization, is responsible for the Whispering Pines membership program and tournament management of The Spirit International. The Texas Golf Association is the governing association for The Spirit International competition.

For more information on The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship, please contact Tournament Director Eric Fredricksen at 281-298-2664 or efredricksen@spiritgolf.org. For more information, visit The Spirit International website at www.thespiritgolf.com.