BELLEAIR, FLORIDA | He wasn’t bashful about it. When Pelican Golf Club owner Dan Doyle was asked about his vision for the LPGA’s Pelican Women’s Championship, he never hesitated. “I would like to see it be the Masters for the women,” said the 54-year-old Doyle, who is the CEO of DEX Imaging, a company that leases copiers and printers to businesses throughout the Southeast.
“That's what we're striving for,” he added. “That's what, literally, day one when we sat with the LPGA and convinced them to let us hold a tournament here, that was our vision. We may not have explained it to them that day, but from that point forward, I've always told everybody I would like to be the women's version of the Masters.”
Lofty goals, and a long, long way to go. There are a few similarities. The members wear royal blue jackets with English vents and gold pelican heads on the breasts. Fred Ridley has one of them. The Augusta National chairman was on the 18th green on Sunday in his blue blazer after Nelly Korda won the championship for a second consecutive year.
The club also has a grass patio with tented tables, remarkably similar to the back lawn between the Augusta National oak and the putting green. The golf course is also in incredible condition, a fact that was accentuated after 5 inches of rain and 70-mph wind gusts from Hurricane Nicole blew through on Thursday, shortening the 2022 event to 54 holes. Friday morning, with debris on every road from Sarasota to Tampa, you would have been hard-pressed to find a pine needle out of place at Pelican Golf Club.
“The course is in amazing shape for what we just went through,” Gerina Mendoza said. “It's in good shape, period, but the greens are absolutely perfect. I don't think I saw standing water at all, just around maybe some drains.”
"I've always told everybody I would like to be the women's version of the Masters.”
Dan Doyle, pelican g.c. owner
Gaby Lopez agreed. “It's crazy how good the greens are rolling after 5 inches of rain,” she said. “The golf course is in unbelievable condition. It drains so well. You know, all the people coming together to put on a golf tournament just as quickly as that, it was just impressive. You walk through the fairway and there are no divots. You walk on the green and the ball is rolling perfectly after so much rain; the greens were quick. So I love it. I love this stage, and I love how Dan (Doyle) loves the LPGA. We need people like him around us.”
Next year the event will be called the Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, or as Doyle immediately called it, “The Annika.” That’s not just a name change. The guys in charge want the tournament to take on an old-world air, a throwback to the days when the Crosby clambake was contested at Cypress Point and Pebble Beach.
There are a few things they need to do to make it Masters-esque. The parachute crew delivering the trophy in front of a trail of purple smoke looks more like the start of a Northwestern football game than a big-time golf tournament. And they could use a few more restrooms on the back nine, a fact made clear when Korda had to sprint to the locker room before her post-round Golf Channel interview. But Doyle is receptive to criticism and eager to make things better.
“I think we built a facility that can hold it, that can replicate that, and you're seeing by the great partners joining us,” he said. “You're seeing our purse get to a level where it's got some size to it ($3.25 million in 2022, the largest outside the majors and the CME Group Tour Championship) where it will intrigue a lot of the players to come.
“Then we take a lot of input from our players. At the end of every tournament, we quiz the players. If you walk around the facility, for example, you'll see we doubled the size of the practice putting green because that's what the players asked for.”
Continuous improvement driven by an owner who listens. It’s a principle that has built success for centuries. With that in mind, Dan Doyle is on his way to creating something special on the west coast of Florida.