North Florida PGA Selects Reunion Resort in Orlando

GolfOrlandoFlorida Editor  

North Florida PGA Executive Director and CEO Rich Smith announced the culmination of an 18-month search with the selection of Reunion Resort as the new home site of the NFPGA. Smith was joined at the event by Salamander Hotels & Resorts Founder and CEO Sheila Johnson, and World Golf Hall of Fame Member Annika Sorenstam.

The partnership with Reunion, which is located just outside Orlando and is managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, creates a series of milestones within the PGA Sectional structure, including:

• It is the first time any of the PGA's 41 sections has chosen a resort as its home base
• Reunion is now the largest home site of any PGA section at 2,300 acres and with 54 holes of golf
• NFPGA members enjoy privileges at the only resort in the world with golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Reunion is also home to the ANNIKA Academy, an innovative instructional facility designed by Annika Sorenstam, and the Frank Thomas Putting PAD.

"Since we began the search for a new home, we have been inspired by the motto: 'for the good of the game, together,'" says Smith. "Collectively, we have all pledged to chart a course to serve the game of golf and its communities. Reunion Resort is the perfect fit."

The fourth largest PGA section of 41 nationwide, the NFPGA has been headquartered in Daytona Beach since 1979. It is geographically comprised of the 42 counties from Tallahassee to Jacksonville in the north, and North Port to Melbourne in the south. This new agreement allows the NFPGA to better serve its communities, 650 facilities and 1,500 professionals from a more central location, as well as work in conjunction with Salamander and the ANNIKA Academy regarding their common and aligned missions, which is to grow the game of golf through their respective programs and foundations.

"Salamander has a commitment to grow the game of golf and respects its traditions," says Johnson. "We are very excited that Reunion was selected by the North Florida PGA as its new home. This decision enriches the message we are consistently delivering at all our Salamander golf resorts, which also includes Innisbrook in Tampa Bay and Hammock Beach in Palm Coast.

Johnson, who serves on the board of the ANNIKA Foundation, was recently appointed to the executive committee of the United States Golf Association and is dedicated to opening up new avenues of growth within the game of golf, including developing specific nine-hole package play at her Salamander resorts and speeding up pace of play.

"Since stepping away from competitive golf in 2008, I've turned my attention to sharing my passion for the game through a variety of platforms and programs, including my Academy and Foundation," says Sorenstam, the 10-time LPGA major winner who has just been elected as a Member of the PGA. "NFPGA headquarters will be a wonderful addition to Reunion and help further facilitate our common interest in making golf welcoming for all."

The golf industry is one of Florida's most robust. It directly impacts the State's economy to the tune of $7.5 billion, provides $13.8 billion in indirect impact, contributes $4.7 billion in wages and employs 167,000 Floridians. Comparatively speaking, the amusement and theme park business creates an economic impact in Florida of $4 billion. Golf in Florida also raises $312 million annually in charitable contributions, which stays within the Sunshine State.

Specific community and growth of the game initiatives from the NFPGA's agreement with Reunion will be announced over the next few months, including junior, military, diversity, and charitable efforts. Each organization already has its own programming in these areas, and will be working together to create larger impacts. The North Florida PGA Foundation, which exists to support this programming, will take the lead on development of these cooperative programs, including "Putting on Smiles" - a children's hospital initiative, and "Adaptive Golf" for wounded veterans.

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