The Historic New Year's Invitational is getting a makeover
08 Feb 2024
by Justin Golba of

see also: New Year's Invitational, St. Petersburg Country Club

After 98 years of competition, the New Year’s Invitational at St. Petersburg Country Club in Saint Petersburg, Fla., is not only still going strong, but it is getting a new look for next year.

The Club is undergoing a major renovation this year to prepare for next year's and future New Year’s Invitationals as the coveted No. 100 approaches.

The New Year's Invitational has been held every year since 1927. It is the oldest continuously-running invitational tournament in the Southeast and one of the oldest in the country. Originally, it was one of a number of tournaments held in the winter months at clubs around the area. The other events, in fact, several of the other clubs, are long departed.

The tournament was a match-play event from its inception until 1956. The first winner was Clearwater resident A.T. Cooper. The 1928 winner, Johnny Revolta, was a combination course ranger - locker room attendant at Lakewood Country Club at the time he won. 

Later, Revolta became a very successful professional, winning the PGA Championship in 1935 and establishing quite a reputation as a short-game instructor. In 1938, he celebrated his return to St. Petersburg and Lakewood with a win at the St. Pete Open, a regular stop on the fledgling PGA tour.

Bob Goalby was the first winner after the change to stroke play. He went on to a lengthy PGA career, including a 1968 Masters green jacket. Between 1972 and 1991, Buddy Alexander, son of our longtime pro, Skip Alexander, won 6 titles, the most wins for any player since the World War II era.

During the past three decades, the championship has been dominated by collegiate players, including winner Ryuji Imada in 1996, Jeff Klauk in 2000 (with a tournament record 21- under par 267), J.B. Holmes in 2003, Brandt Snedeker in 2004, Jeff Overton in 2005, Luke List 2006, Peter Uihlein 2009, Sam Horsfield 2014-2015, Hayden Buckley 2017-2018, and Nick Gabrelcik 2020. For a full list of champions you may visit the New Years Invitational website. 

Over the years, the field has shown more international participation, with entrants from Canada, Germany, Finland, the UK, Colombia, Japan, Portugal, Mexico and China.

Richard Hope is the chairman of the tournament and a man who has been involved in the tournament in one way or another for over 55 years. He first played in the tournament in 1969 at the age of 18. He joined the club in 1982 and started working for the tournament in 1991. 

“It was essentially a local event that started in the 1920s to bring people to Florida and sell them real estate lots,” Hope said. “A lot of clubs had invitational tournaments with the idea there was a land boom in Florida.” 

Hope added, “Most tournaments ceased to exist after the boom, but the New Year's Invitational continued. There were no students because, at that time, tournament golf was played primarily by adults rather than young adults, and that went through the 1950’s and 1960’s.”

Then, the club and tournament prioritized stronger players and focused on bringing in collegiate players. 

“As the 1970s came on, the club got in contact with schools like Wake Forest and Florida to participate, and the collegiate golfers started to grow in participation,” Hope said. 

Hope continued, “In the 1990’s, we wanted to make the tournament better by emphasizing strong players and competition at a high level.”

Retired professional Skip Alexander and his son Buddy Alexander, who was the coach at the University of Florida, reached out to two dozen collegiate coaching contacts to help grow the participation in 1995.

This helped the invitational become weighted to the championship flight.

In 2005, they moved to an all-championship flight event and away from handicapped flights and added the Senior Championship Division. 

“We like to think we give them a good week, are open to them, and appreciate their presence,” Hope said. “And it is an old-style golf course. It’s Old Florida. It is flat, and the greens are small, elevated, and all front to back. If you go over the green, you have a heck of a time getting it up and down. It is something a bit unusual for the young guys. They are used to bigger and longer golf courses but with larger greens. This can be challenging.”

Hope continued, “We are turning over fields every three or four years because most of the young golfers are attempting to pursue a professional career or are starting their careers, and we are getting some turnover every year. But as long as they are in school, we have repeaters.”

And now, 98 years later, St. Petersburg Country Club is getting a makeover.  

“We are doing just about everything,” Hope said.

“We are regrassing the tees and 70 acres of fairways and surrounds,” Hope said. "The turf we choose is a new hybrid Bermuda grass called Bimini for fairways and surrounds. For Greens, they choose the hybrid Bermuda grass Tif Eagle and will rebuild the greens to USGA Specifications." 

Hope added, “I think we are going to enlarge the greens in some instances and rework the bunkers.”  

“This has never been done before,” Hope said. “A number of lakes were dug about 40 years ago, and we changed one or two holes significantly, but the regrassing of the fairways has never happened before.” 

The contracting firm Golf Sculptures International, based out of Central Florida, is the principal on the project.

And they are getting help from a professional with ties to the event. Gary Koch is consulting and will be consulting all the way through the construction. 

Koch won the tournament in 1974, and the seven-time PGA Tour winner and now Golf Channel commentator returned this year to the invitational to hand out the trophies on the 50th anniversary of his win.

“It’s a big plus for us,” Hope said about Koch’s involvement. “I have been sitting in most of our meetings, and he is very easy to talk with and very understanding and practical.”

Now, as the invitational approaches 100 years, Hope said the goal of the tournament is to do what it has been doing throughout the last 98 years. Impact golf in a positive way. 

“It's good for the club and the community and, hopefully, for golf in general,” Hope said. 

For additional information about the New Year’s Invitational or to apply for the 2025 New Year’s Invitational please contact Head Golf Professional Anthony Swinford at

ABOUT THE New Year's Invitational

Historic invitational golf tournament that originated on the Lakewood golf course in 1927. This same amateur invitational tournament -- which attracts top Florida amateurs and a strong group of out-of- state players as well -- continues, unbroken, each year although the club name was later changed to St. Petersburg Country Club.

View Complete Tournament Information

Latest in, Inc.
6965 El Camino Real 105-631
Carlsbad, CA 92009

Instagram X Facebook YouTube