PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Paul Casey was confident about showing well in his attempt at winning a third-straight Valspar Championship title.

“I certainly feel like I can win, but we have a great field haven’t we? Guys like Brooks (Koepka), Dustin (Johnson), and Gary (Woodland),” he said.

That was February 24.

A lot has changed since then, due to coronavirus. Professional sporting events, including this week’s Valspar Championship on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, have been canceled. The NBA, NCAA, NHL, MLB and more have all amended their schedules. The PGA Tour announced the postponement of the year’s first two majors, including April’s Masters. Sports isn’t able to provide the global distraction from virus news.

“It’s been extremely disappointing,” said Innisbrook Director of Golf Bobby Barnes. “We work all year for this one event. It’s devastating for us. It’s devastating for the local charities. That’s probably who I feel the worst for.”

The tournament, obviously disappointed in needing to cancel in 2019, came up with an intriguing idea to put all of its hard work to use. The course is set up to challenge the best players in the world. Instead of pros, Average Joe’s got to tee it up on the Copperhead course due to a special golf package organized by the resort.

“My game is a little shaky because I’m kind of nervous,” said John Brown, who had never played Copperhead until Thursday, the day that would have marked Round One of the 2020 Valspar Championship. “Chance of a lifetime. I never thought I’d be here.”

Even members who play the Copperhead all the time were impressed with the difficulty PGA Tours would have faced on the grounds.

“I tell you what. I don’t think I’d be challenging Brooks Koepka today,” said Mike Raphtis, who visits Palm Harbor part-time from Michigan. “You’ve got to keep them in fairways and enjoy the day because it’s absolutely gorgeous out here today.”

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Innisbrook is calling the golf deal its Tournament Package, and it’s good through the end of March. The chance to play a course as challenging as this – one aimed at humbling the best golfers on the planet for one tournament week each year – is now available to the general public use to watching the action from the now-vacant grandstands.

“Always a great track but today, like the pros, it is thick that rough, it is juicy, and stay in the fairway,” said Charlie Dorozinksi.

In addition to coming up with an interesting golfing opportunity, the tournament is also aiming to redistribute food from the tournament to local food banks and will send a portion of the money from the Tournament Package to the Copperhead charities, which gives millions of dollars to local organizations each year after the Valspar Championship.

“We’re doing everything we can to help out in this crazy time,” said Barnes.

Rounds at Copperhead start at $199 with an option to play a replay round on any other Innisbrook resort course for $35. Golfers must be staying on property. To book a round of 18 on the Copperhead while it’s still in PGA tournament-condition, visit Innisbrook’s website or Facebook page.

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