The $1.75 million ShopRite LPGA Classic was held at Seaview in Galloway, NJ, owned by the Tampa entrepreneur and philanthropist.
GALLOWAY, N.J.: Standing tall near the 18th hole at the end of a windswept day of golf, Lexi Thompson lifted the ShopRite LPGA Classic trophy with great pride. Moments ago, the 24-year-old had buried a clutch 20-foot putt — from exactly the spot where she is standing — for an eagle to stage a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Jeongeun Lee6, who had pipped her to second position at the U.S. Open a week earlier.
Winning her 11th Ladies Professional Golf Association title on the same course where she made her professional debut in 2010, at the age of 15, was a special moment for Thompson, who became the 10th winningest current golfer in the LPGA circuit.
But Johnson, who collected $250,000 in prize money, was not the only person on the 18th green savoring the moment. The occasion was equally special for the fellow Floridian who gave her the trophy: Indian American entrepreneur Dr. Kiran Patel.
It was the first time in the history of the LPGA and PGA that an Indian American was handing over the winner’s trophy. It was also the first time that an LPGA or PGA tour event was held at an Indian American-owned course.
Patel, who lives in Tampa, is the owner of Seaview, which he purchased last year.
ShopRite LPGA Classic event has been continuously held at Seaview, a 105-year-old golf course, since 1998. The tournament has been a permanent fixture in the LPGA calendar since 1986.
For Patel, headlining at the prize distribution ceremony marked the conclusion of a hectic week, during which he camped out at Seaview to make sure that every detail is handled properly and nothing marred world class golf.
“This is a rare opportunity afforded to an Indian American to host an event where more than 60,000 people attend over a period of four days,” later he told The American Bazaar. “It was such an exciting weekend here at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.”
Patel, who is an avid golfer himself, thanked the LPGA, Eiger Marketing Group, ShopRite, and the tournament sponsor ACER for making the event “a Jersey Shore tradition.”
The Zambia-born entrepreneur, who has the honor of writing the biggest philanthropic check to a single institution by an Indian American, when he committed $200 million to the Nova Southeastern University in 2017, pointed out that the tournament also raises more than $1.5 million for charities.
The 6,247-yard long Seaview, in Galloway, NJ, is one of the six golf courses owned by Patel. The course and the Seaview Hotel have changed hands a few times in the past hundred years.
Since he purchased it last summer, Patel has spent millions to renovate the 296-room Seaview Hotel. Located roughly 11 miles to the northwest of Atlantic City, the hotel has hosted Presidents Warren G. Harding and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and celebrities such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Grace Kelly.
“It is a wonderful start for this newly renovated iconic property,” Patel said. “We are looking forward to next year’s tournament already!”
That last sentence was a testament to the fan and the amateur golfer in him.
Given his passion for golf, it was not an accident that Patel chose to focus on hospitality industry, after exiting from his second billion-dollar healthcare business more than a year and a half ago.
At the moment, he owns a number of landmark hotels, including Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach in Florida, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico; Dolce Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado; and Westward Look Resort and Spa, located in Tucson, Arizona.
The Cheyenne Mountain Resort has an 18-hole championship golf course designed by the legendary Pete Dye. The course in Tucson was designed in 1912, making it the oldest course that he owns.
At 70, golf is probably the only thing that slows the jet-setting cardiologist down. He had teed off several times after landing in the area for the ShopRite Classic last week.
An official from his hospitality business told the American Bazaar that Patel spends “as many times per week as his busy schedule allows him to” on the golf course.
Asked about his boss’ handicap, the official said, rather diplomatically: He is “working towards having a handicap in the low teens over the next several months.”
However, for Patel, these past four days were all about making sure that everything went smoothly during the tournament, which is one of the 30 odd events in LPGA’s annual calendar.
And judging by the plan and fan reactions, the first ever LPGA event hosted by an Indian American seemed to have gone very smoothly — except for the brutal 20-30 mph Atlantic winds.
That was acknowledged by Thompson, speaking after winning the 14th tournament of her career. The champion golfer, the youngest golfer ever to qualify to play in the U.S. Women’s Open when she did so at the age of 12, thanked Patel for the great hospitality at Seaview during the tournament.
Indian Americans Kiran and Pallavi Patel pledge $200 million to Florida’s NSU (September 25, 2017)