By JOHN FINERAN, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
Our little corner of paradise is becoming quite the place for sporting action.
The South Coast League will begin play in May with one of its six franchises, the Charlotte Redfish, occupying Charlotte Sports Park. Meanwhile, the park will once again host college baseball teams from the colder climates (and some from around here, too) when the fourth Port Charlotte Invitational runs from Feb. 24 to March 31.
Of course, the park soon will begin a $27 million renovation to become the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays by 2009.
With our closeness to the Gulf of Mexico and some wonderful creeks and rivers flowing into Charlotte Harbor, there are events galore that utilize our waterways.
The fifth Charlotte Harbor Kayak and Wildlife Festival takes place March 24-25 at Port Charlotte Beach Park. The Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors fishing series will make a couple of stops in the area. The Kingfish Series is scheduled for an event at Stump Pass Marina in Englewood on April 1. The Redfish Series is scheduled for a three-day event at Stump Pass Marina April 26-28.
That last tournament comes just a few days before the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup makes its fourth stop in Punta Gorda May 4-6. The tour, which is televised on ESPN2, has been successful since it first stopped here in 2003. Local officials made it into a three-day festival that brought anglers and nonanglers alike to downtown Punta Gorda to watch dog jumping, painting and food exhibits.
Last year, Golf Digest named our area the third best place for golfing in the United States, and it isn’t hard to understand why with all the courses we have. One of them, Port Charlotte Golf Club, recently held the 28th Powder Puff Classic, a women’s tournament that for years was held at Punta Gorda Country Club, which was destroyed by Hurricane Charley in 2004.
A renovated Port Charlotte Golf Club drew raves from the more than 150 women who competed last weekend and the 29 golf professionals who participated in a Friday pro-am. One of those pros was North Fort Myers’ George McNeill, last year’s runner-up to Derek Lamely in the Michelob Ultra Charlotte County Open and now a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour after being medalist at Q-School.
This year, the tournament welcomed two high school golfers to the tournament, and in future years, the Powder Puff committee hopes to invite other young women golfers from the area and the state to participate in a separate division.
The only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves.
Our little secret paradise is rapidly not becoming one.
JOHN FINERAN email@example.com