The Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II co-designed golf course previously hosted the event from 2002-2006
The ACE Group has returned home.
The ACE Group Classic will celebrate its 25th anniversary this week and it is doing so with a return to its long-time home of TwinEagles in Naples, Fla., and the Jack Nicklaus-Jack Nicklaus II co-designed Talon course. The ACE Group Classic was hosted on the Talon course at TwinEagles from 2002-06—tying for the longest stint at one course—and champions included Hall of Fame member Hale Irwin and two-time ACE Group Classic champion Loren Roberts.
“We are delighted for TwinEagles, its staff and its membership that the Ace Group is back there,” said Jack Nicklaus, who co-designed the course with son Jack II and officially opened it in 1999. “It’s a great opportunity for golf fans in Southwest Florida to enjoy watching quality golf played on a fine facility, and hopefully the members at TwinEagles see it as a chance to show off their course to the golf world.
“The course my son Jack and I collaborated on is a wonderful member’s course, and was designed for those who hopefully enjoy it day in and day out. But when played from the back tees and with the pins placed in the right portions of the greens, it is equally good as a tournament course that tests a player with a variety of golf shots and forces them to use every club in the bag.”
This week’s ACE Group field, which tees off Friday, will include marquee Champions Tour players Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Brad Faxon and John Cook. Out of this group of players, all but Cook will be competing in The ACE Group Classic for the first time.
“We were extremely excited to hear that Tom Lehman, last year’s Champions Tour Player of the Year, would be joining our field,” said Tournament Director Lesley Baker. “We cannot wait to show off some of the best talent that the Champions Tour has to offer, right here in Naples. It will be the first time that golf fans in Southwest Florida get the chance to see some of these great players at The ACE Group Classic.”
When Lehman was named the 2011 Champions Tour Player of the Year last season, he became the first player in history to win Player of the Year honors on all three tours – the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour. He put together an impressive year in 2011, winning three times, including a major title at the Regions Tradition, while also finishing at the top of the Champions Tour Money List. The 2006 United States Ryder Cup captain looks to continue his solid play in 2012.
Former U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin seeks his first victory on the Champions Tour in 2012. Pavin, who has played on the Champions Tour for two years, was also named captain for the United States Ryder Cup team in 2010. He has 15 career PGA TOUR wins to his credit since turning pro in 1982. In 2011, Pavin earned two third place finishes and nine top-10 finishes on his way to finishing 18th on the money list and Charles Schwab Cup standings.
Kenny Perry and Brad Faxon, who have 22 career PGA TOUR wins between them, will also join The ACE Group Classic field for the first time. Both Perry and Faxon earned their first Champions Tour victories late last season; Perry at the SAS Championship and Faxon at the Insperity Championship. Perry, in his 3rd year on the Champions Tour, and Faxon, in his 2nd year, are both expected to compete in more Champions Tour tournaments in 2012.
John Cook returns to The ACE Group Classic this year, hoping to build on his impressive 2011 campaign. His three victories last year tied him with Lehman for the most wins by an individual player. Cook has been a major player on the Champions Tour since becoming eligible in 2007. In total, he has eight Champions Tour titles to go along with seven runner-up finishes.
With these additions, The ACE Group Classic field now features 21 different Champions Tour major winners. The tournament also has the top-12 golfers from the 2011 Official Money List.
“I always like to emphasize that golf is an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature. Few golf courses provide that experience better than TwinEagles,” Nicklaus said. “During a round of golf at TwinEagles, you work your way through and around beautiful old cypress trees. You see ospreys, eagles, and an abundance of wildlife and vegetation thriving there. My son Jack and I, as well as our entire team, worked very closely with Audubon International during the design and construction of the golf course, so it’s very much a protected environment. Also, due to this approach, the golf course is very spacious, which has accommodated galleries very well over the years and provides excellent views of the golf.
“TwinEagles is also a good risk-reward golf course. All the par 5s can be either a three-shot or two-shot hole, depending on the wind, as well as how a player feels that day and what he needs out of the hole. I like to think of TwinEagles as a great finishing golf course. There are some demanding holes on the back side that could easily be swing holes in the tournament. From 14 on, the players will face holes where they can make bogey or birdie. That only adds to the excitement of a tournament.”
Tickets are available online at www.acegroupclassic.com or by phone (239) 593-3900. Children 17 and under are admitted free all week with a ticketed adult.