OLDSMAR, FL. – At The Downs Golf Practice Facility at Tampa Bay Downs, winter is merely a state of mind.
On the other hand, the fourth annual Golfest Presented by Valspar, scheduled the weekend of Feb. 8-9, is nirvana.
And with the addition of the Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge to the lineup on Saturday, Feb. 8 – featuring two-person teams from the world of professional sports and entertainment – golfers of all ability levels and ages can plan on a weekend of family fun and entertainment, along with a chance to sample the newest equipment and prepare for another season of enjoyment on the links.
“Our Golfest event has become established as one of the most popular demo day and expo gatherings anywhere in Florida,” said Golf Practice Facility Manager Jon Johnson. “We look forward to welcoming many familiar faces who have attended the first three Golfest events and hope to introduce even more newcomers to the joys of the game and the rewards of the golf lifestyle.”
Admission both days is $10 for adults, with children 14-and-under free.
The Celebrity Golf Skills Challenge will be contested from noon-2 p.m. on Feb. 8. Scheduled participants include pitchers David Price and Andy Sonnanstine from the Tampa Bay Rays; Daren Puppa and Pat Jablonski representing the Lightning;  two members of the Buccaneers; Whit Watson and Win McMurry from The Golf Channel; rockers Nicko McBrain from the group Iron Maiden and Shawn Drover from Megadeth; and WDAE 620-AM radio personality Steve Duemig and 12-year-old IMG Academy prodigy Latanna Stone, who two years ago became the youngest qualifier ever, at 10, for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Each team will compete in a series of events, including some patterned on The Golf Channel’s Big Break show. Among them are the “Glass Break;” “The Wall;” a putting contest; closest-to-the-pin; and long drive.
As in past years, numerous big names within the industry – including the world’s leading trick-shot artist, Chuck “The Hit Man” Hiter – will perform exhibitions throughout the two-day extravaganza. Saturday’s stage lineup, which begins at 11 a.m., includes past North Florida PGA Teacher of the Year Matt Mitchell; long-drive champion and trick-shot artist Mike Ziegler; long-time PGA Tour and Champions Tour winner Jim Dent, long known as the longest hitter on tour; and award-winning instructor Rick Bradshaw.
Sunday’s exhibitions begin at 11 a.m. and feature Steve Whidden, the 2013 North Florida PGA Teacher of the Year; long-drive champion Mike Ziegler; and Hiter, the world’s leading trick-shot artist who will appear at 1 p.m.
New to Golfest Presented by Valspar this year are the U.S. Kids Junior Golf experience and the Bridgestone Golf ball-fitting computers.
A popular returning event is the TROT (Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa, Inc.) $1,000,000 Hole-in-One Challenge, with entrants having a chance to win the top prize by making an ace in the finals on Feb. 9.
Golfest hours are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9.
Golfest Presented by Valspar is the Tampa Bay area’s largest demo day and golf expo, and golfers will be able to hit new clubs from such manufacturing companies as TaylorMade, Nike, Adams, Cobra, Callaway, Ping, Wilson and Mizuno, among others.
The event also features about 20 golf lifestyle booths inside the Golf Expo Area, free 10-minute lessons from certified PGA teaching professionals and hourly prize drawings. On-site discounts will be offered in the PGA Golf Shop and everyone is encouraged to enter putting and chipping contests for a chance to win prizes.
Hourly prize drawings will be conducted, and attendees will receive a goodies bag with discounted rounds of golf and have a chance to win tickets to the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, scheduled March 13-16 on the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in nearby Palm Harbor.
Everyone is eligible to enter the TROT $1,000,000 Hole-In-One Challenge. Qualifying for the finals will be held throughout each day, with the semifinals and finals beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday. A $10 entry fee allows golfers to hit five shots from a distance of 167 yards, with anyone landing a shot within a 20-foot diameter circle advancing to the semifinals. Anyone making a hole-in-one in qualifying receives $250 in range balls.
Only the closest-to-the-hole golfer in the semifinals will advance to the finals and one shot for the chance to win $1,000,000 by making a hole-in-one, with $500,000 going to the golfer in an annuity and $500,000 going to TROT.
TROT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the safe retirement, rehabilitation and adoption of Tampa’s racing Thoroughbreds.
The Downs Golf Practice Facility is located at 10327 Race Track Road, just south of Tampa Bay Downs racetrack. For details on the Golfest Presented by Valspar event, call (813) 854-4946.