PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Attendance figures from this year's Honda Classic are exceeding expectations by more than 60,000 people.
Top-notch golf games by Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood were among the many factors that contributed to a nearly 45 percent increase in spectators over a seven-day period.
Favorable weather, more than a year of planning and some of the biggest names in golf helped make for a record-breaking year.
All is now quiet on the 18th hole of PGA National, but for nearly a week, the golf course and much of Palm Beach County was at the epicenter of the professional golf world.
Attendance at the Honda Classic has been on the upswing since 2007, when 83,000 people came out to the links. The numbers have grown each year. This year, 161,700 spectators came to the course between Monday's Pro-Am and Sunday's final round - a new record.
"We certainly were expecting a nice bump this year but a 45 percent increase to our attendee base was certainly more than we expected," said Ed McEnroe, Tournament Director.
Even before Tiger Woods signed on to play the Honda Classic, advanced ticket sales were up 35%. McEnroe says Tiger's as a late addition certainly boosted interest. "The moment that he committed and that it went public, the buzz just started to go in a very major way," he said.
When the throngs of spectator were not spending time on the course, they were spending dollars at local shops and restaurants. "The image and brand awareness role that these events have, and the Honda Classic is one of our biggest ones or the biggest ones, is just incredible," said Jorge Pesquera of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's a public relations dream come true," he said.
There has been little rest for the team that organized the event this year. Preparations for next year's Honda Classic began a month ago. "It's important for what we've built here and use the energy and excitement to learn from," said McEnroe. The Honda Classic will be held at PGA National Resort & Spa for at least the next four years. That, organizers say, allows for longterm planning, instead of year-to-year. "We couldn't be happier with how this tournament ended."