LIVE SCORING: The 69th Gasparilla Invitational is now underway
22 Feb 2024
by Sean Melia of

see also: Gasparilla Invitational, Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club

The 69th playing of the Gasparilla Invitational, a 54-hole event that annually attracts the top mid-and senior amateurs in the nation, gets underway on Thursday, Feb 22 at the Palma Ceia Country Club in Tampa Bay, Fla. The event is rich with history, and the welcoming membership makes this a week to remember.


Originally, the Gasparilla was a professional event from 1932 to 1935. It drew players like Open Champion Denny Shute, Hall of Famer Paul Runyan, and 11-time major champion Walter Hagan. The event had the highest purse of any professional event of the time. Paul Runyan collected $962 in 1932 for his victory. It was handed to him in golf coins, befitting a pirate’s treasure.

Since 1956, when the Gasparilla was revived as an amateur event, it continued to draw exceptional players. 1960 champion, Downing Gray, was a three-time Walker Cup competitor. Gray also played in six straight Masters and won low amateur twice. The U.S. Amateur Champion Buddy Alexander won the 1976 Gasparilla, and Hal Sutton won the 1981 version before kicking off his heralded professional career.

The Gasparilla Trophy

The name of the event comes from an 18th and 19th-century Spanish-born pirate named Jose Gaspar. Every February, the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sponsors a “pirate invasion” and parade for the City of Tampa in honor of “the last buccaneer.”

This city-wide pirate event matches up with the timing of the original professional Gasparilla event. This is also why the winner of the event receives a trophy of a skull with golf clubs that evoke the image of a skull and crossbones. It is one of the most original trophies in golf.

Brendon Wilson rides a hot final round to 2023 Gasparilla Invitational title Podcast: Palma Ceiea Director of Golf Joe Hodge


If breaking scoring records is a sign of a deep field, then the last two years have seen some of the deepest fields in Gasparilla's history. In 2022, Logan Blondell set a new scoring record with a 10-under total. Then, in 2023, Brendon Wilson matched that final total, which included a scorching 64 on the final day to beat Nick Macarrio by three shots.


According to Gasparilla's Instagram account, Brendon Wilson will be back to defend his title. The likes of Chip Brooke, Derek Busby, and Marc Dull, all former winners, will hope to get their hands on that famous trophy once again.

Joe Deraney, who had an incredible late summer and fall with wins in the Canadian Mid-Am and the Devil's Elbow, will also tee it up in Tampa this week as he prepares for a trip to Puerto Rico for the PGA Tour's Punta Cana Championship.

Deraney is ranked No. 16 in the Mid-Amateur Rankings.

Devil's Elbow Invitational: Joseph Deraney wins by two in the Dominican Republic

After helping Team USA win the Walker Cup as captain, Mike McCoy will return to Palma Ceia to compete. He'll certainly be a favorite to take home the senior title.

No Laying Up's Chris Solomon will be back again, too. He was the fourth guest ever on our Amateur Golf Podcast which was all about his first taste of the Gasparilla.


One distinction that the Gasparilla has among the big Mid-Amatuer competitive scene is a Monday qualifier for players who did not earn a spot in the field. 2022 champion Logan Blondell shot a 73 in the Monday qualifier the week he won. It was the highest score he shot during the week en route to breaking the scoring record.


Palma Ceia is a course tucked into just 90 acres of land. A tiny parcel of land considering modern designs need at least 250-300 acres. It's highlighted by wickedly fast greens and closely mown green surrounds.

"That short grass can make chips very tough under pressure," said Joe Hodge, Palma Ceia's Director of Golf. 

One interesting quirk is that most of the trouble at Palma Ceia is on the left side of the holes. The routing runs clockwise, so houses on the edges of the property are all along the left side of the course. That has meant that playing the ball left to right is the safer way to get the ball around. The term "Palma Ceia Push" was coined to highlight players bailing out to the right in order to avoid the ominpresent out of bounds.

At 6,300 yards and par 70, the course still provides a challenge with its length; however, the scoring record has been set a few times in recent years.

Joe Hodge doesn't seem too bothered by the low scores, "I don't think we feel like that's a problem. I think we feel we got great players coming in here and it's a tribute to how good the golf course is. Carson Kamps, our superintendent, does a great job and you have to have a course in good condition to score like that as well, even though it's difficult."

Even as scores get lower, players certainly feel the pain if they aren't dialed in during the Gasparilla.

"One of the players came off, and he said he didn't play well," Hodge said. "And he goes, 'I feel like I just got beat up by a six-year-old.'"

Hodge, who grew up a member at Palma Ceia and won the club championship four times, including as a 15-year-old, believes that the 18th hole tends to be an important hole. The first two rounds are shotgun starts, so not everyone finishes their round there.Iit's a scorable par 5. The clubhouse bumps up close to the back of the green. Members hang out and watch the proceedings. 

"A birdie can turn into a double bogey really fast," Hodge said of the 18th hole.

The winner of the Gasparilla will have to pick the right times to attack the course and when to take his medicine.

ABOUT THE Gasparilla Invitational

54-hole individual stroke play championship with a cut after 36 holes to the low 60 and ties. Good mix of Florida players and national competitors looking for an early season tune up. Played on a traditional, tree lined golf course that isn't very long but has small, undulating greens.

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