Saturday, May 19, 2018

'Guinness World Records' recognition sought for free golf tournament

LAND O'LAKES — When it came to this year's Justin Inversso Memorial Golf Tournament, Bill Schroder wanted to shake things up.

In an attempt to draw more participants and sponsors, Schroder turned this year's tournament into a free event with a twist: a place in Guinness World Records for largest free golf tournament.

"It was a way to try and get interest in the tournament," Schroder said. "There are all kinds of entries under golf tournament in the Guinness book of world records, but nothing under free golf tournament."

The tournament, staffed by volunteers and sponsored by various local businesses, drew about 250 golfers to six different courses on Saturday. Guinness World Records is considering whether to create a category that recognizes the event, and organizers hope to hear a decision within a few weeks.

"We could have accommodated more players, but I thought it was a success," Schroder said. "We had no idea how it would go, but we were looking to really catch the eye of the businesses around here and have them use it as a promotional tool. Our goal is to raise a lot more money than we have with this so far."

This year's event raised about $8,000 for the Justin Inversso Scholarship fund, in memory of the young Adventure Island lifeguard and Dade City native who was struck by lightning while at work in 2011.

"I think we did all right last year and this was a fun way to do the tournament for this year, but it won't be free again next year," Schroder said. "It was a one-time deal trying to create this Guinness world record. We want to give as much as we can to the charities we work with, so next year we're going to try and work with sponsors to match what we raise."

Participants like Scott Dedmon enjoyed the quality of the golf on a sunny Saturday morning and were pleased to see Schroder bring back the Inversso event after its inaugural iteration last year.

"I think it's a big deal what Bill (Schroder) is doing with this tournament in having the money go to the scholarship fund and helping kids pay for school," Dedmon said. "Naming it the World's Largest Free Golf Tournament certainly grabs your attention, so I hope it continues to grow. You have to love coming out here on a beautiful Saturday like this and playing golf on a course as nice as what they have here at the Groves."

The participating courses were Hernando Oaks Golf and Country Club, the Groves, Silverado, Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, Sherman Hills and the Abbey at Saint Leo. The winning foursomes from all six courses will compete this weekend in a playoff round at Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club.

The event was a nice way for the golf courses to get involved with local charities, but Pete Sands, head professional at Hernando Oaks, also saw it as a good way to show off the quality of the golf course and attract potential clients.

"These tournaments are always good for us from a marketing perspective to have people out on the course that may not normally play here," Sands said. "Of course we're always open to having charity tournaments on the course so that we can help out by giving them a location as well, but we want to welcome new players to the course whenever we can. Overall, this was a successful event for us here at Hernando Oaks."