Valdosta Daily Times

April 30, 2013

Tournament draws largest crowds ever

South Georgia Classic a boon to local economy

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In its seventh year, the South Georgia Classic surged ahead of last year’s attendance numbers, drawing around 25 percent more spectators than 2012.

Official numbers aren’t yet tallied for the PGA Web.com tour event, held at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club April 25-28, but preliminary counts show a surge in spectators and visitors for the event.

“We’re estimating in the neighborhood of 12-13,000 visitors for the week,” Tournament Manager Joerdan Simpson said. “There were definitely more folks out there this week.”

Simpson said, weather-wise, “We couldn’t have asked for a better week.”

And when asked if having professional golfer and two-time majors champion John Daly playing had any part in the increased attendance, Simpson said, “Having Daly here definitely helped to create a buzz about the tournament. We also think people are finally getting more interested in the Classic.”

Tim Riddle of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Conference Center and Tourism Authority noted that when he was at the tournament on Friday, “Everybody walking around knew exactly where Daly was. He was a big draw for the event for sure.”

According to Riddle, anytime an event brings a national spotlight to the community, it’s a good thing.

“It shows that Valdosta can handle a PGA Tour event, which is huge. It helps for future business relocation and economic development, and gets our name into other circles. People say, ‘If Valdosta can handle that, maybe they’re a good place to locate,’” Riddle said.

Although tourists driving through the area reported difficulty finding a hotel room this weekend, The Times couldn’t find any hoteliers willing to comment on the record Monday.

However, Riddle said even hearing the name Valdosta associated with the tournament will have spill-over effect and bring in more people, even if it’s just to stop overnight.

Sponsored by First State Trust & Bank, the South Georgia Classic has been estimated to bring in $3 million to $4 million during the course of a week to the local economy. In addition, a number of area charities sold tickets to the event and benefitted from the proceeds.

Simpson said it will be a couple of weeks before all of the final numbers are in, but the Classic is considered the largest single-event economic generator in the community.