The Honda Classic was notably light on star power this year. Despite taking place in golf’s unofficial international capital, Palm Beach County, just three of the world’s top 20 players made the trek to PGA National. But on Monday, just fifteen minutes from Keith Mitchell’s Sunday victory, there’s a tournament with a far more loaded field: the Seminole Golf Club Member-Pro. That’s where seven of the world’s top nine players will tee it up alongside the world’s rich, famous and influential in a one-of-a-kind event.
A quick scan of Monday’s tee sheet revealed some eye-popping pairings. There are the golfers: Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy, just to name those with single-digit world rankings (and that’s ignoring no-namers like Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Paul Azinger and oh, Jack Nicklaus).
There are leaders of sport, too, including Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald, PGA CEO Seth Waugh, PGA president Suzy Whaley, NBC Sports bigwig Pete Bevacqua and Walker Cup captain Spider Miller. And then there’s a whole host of big-business types, led by Seminole president Jimmy Dunne III, one of golf’s biggest power brokers, who is playing with Mickelson.
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The event, which Davis Love III has referred to as the “first major of the year,” was traditionally held the Monday before Doral until that tournament was moved to Mexico City. Now it takes place in the lead-up to this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. And yes, Mitchell is on the tee sheet too, just a day after his maiden PGA Tour win. There’s no TV coverage, of course, nor FedEx Cup points, nor any formally announced purse. But there’s plenty of intrigue nonetheless.
Things kicked off at Seminole Sunday evening with a cocktail party and dinner at the club, while some of its attendees were still at PGA National. The format is a two-man best ball, with both gross and net divisions. World No. 2 Justin Rose is the two-time net defending champion after he and Waugh won by two last year with a 63.
Seminole is an extremely exclusive club in Juno Beach, Fla. which ranked No. 14 on GOLF’s latest ranking of Top 100 Courses in the U.S. Donald Ross designed the course in 1929 and it became a hub for golf legends, including Ben Hogan, who saw it as the perfect spot to practice for the Masters. The current Pro-Member has its roots in a big-money Calcutta that started in 1937 before the USGA cracked down on events like it in 1961. The current format has been around for 15 years.
Whoever wins will find themselves in talented company; past champions include Hogan, Nicklaus, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer, who played the event as recently as 2014 before ceding his spot to his grandson, Sam Saunders.