TAMPA – For three years, The Downs Golf Facility has been one of the top golf demo shops in Florida, which is saying a lot.
This year, Jon Johnson and The Downs are trying to top even themselves. The Downs will host its fourth annual Golfest on Feb. 8-9. There will be representatives of most of the world’s top equipment manufacturers, events for kids and adults, guest speakers throughout both days, a chance to test out every type of 2014 model golf club, and more.
For the first time, The Downs will host a “Big Break” type of an event featuring local celebrities. Golf fans know that “Big Break” is must-see TV. It is a show that features everything from skill competitions to playing for a shot at a professional Tour card. Challenges at Golfest will include “glass break,” where golfers simply try to shatter a plate of glass from 15 to 20 yards; “The Wall,” as golfers try to get closest to the pin by hitting a lob shot over a large wall; a putting contest; closest to the pin; and a long drive championship.
Local celebrities include current and former Tampa Bay Rays David Price and Andy Sonnanstine; former Tampa Bay Lightning Daren Puppa and Pat Jablonski; Whit Watson and Win McMurry from the Golf Channel; and heavy metal rockers Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) and Shawn Drover (Megadeath). Other local celebrities will also participate.
“Our Golfest event has become established as one of the most popular demo days and expo gatherings anywhere in Florida,” Johnson said. “We look forward to welcoming many familiar faces who have attended the first three Golfest events.”
The main sponsor is the Valspar Championship, which will be held at Innisbrook in March.
The Kids Zone is also a big attraction every year. Children can try out the mini golf area with putt-putt golf, lessons and a free bucket of balls.
Johnson said that, as successful as the past three years have been, they are upping the ante this year.
“Every year we get bigger and bigger,” Johnson said. “We’re still looking for sponsors but this is a big thing for us and for the Tampa Bay golf scene. We expect our biggest crowd yet.”
The main event is Sunday, when Golfest will host a $1 million hole-in-one contest. Anyone can enter. A $10 entry fee allows anyone to hit five shots from a distance of 167 yards. Anyone landing one of their shots within a 20-foot diameter circle advances to the semifinals. Anyone making a hole-in-one in qualifying receives $250 in range balls.
The golfer who finishes closest to the hole in the semis moves onto the finals with one shot to win the prize.
“We’d like to think we are the best in the business at this type event,” Johnson said. “Anybody who loves golf needs to come by.”
Golfest will be held at The Downs on 10327 Race Track Road on Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Feb. 9 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. For information on sponsorship or purchasing a booth, call (813) 854-4946.