How much is The Classic worth?
The Ensure Classic at Rock Barn presented by Kia Motors is bringing the green to Catawba County.
More than 80,000 people are expected to attend the tournament, and those spectators bring more to the region than simply an interest in golf - they bring money.
"We think it's the single largest tourism draw in the region," said Bebe Leitch, Hickory-Conover Tourism Development Authority executive director.
The tournament started eight years ago, and since its inception, the Classic created an econmic impact in the region of more than $140 million, said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr.
Because of publicity and name recognition that Catawba County receives during the Classic each year, it's hard to estimate in dollars exactly how much money the tournament brings to the area.
"When you combine the international reach of television coverage, it would be impossible to put a dollar value for this positive exposure," Moritz said.
With big-name golfers such as Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Classic defending champion Jay Haas, golf enthusiasts come from across the country to watch the legends play, Leitch said.
"To have the names that they bring here ... it's a huge economic impact," she said.
The economic impact of the event, however, is not limited within Rock Barn Golf and Spa. Spectators, golfers and their families venture beyond the golf course and into the county to find food, accomodations and other activities when golfers aren't on the green.
"People fill up hotel rooms," Leitch said, adding that Catawba County's hotels offer very competitive rates. "Of course, all those people are eating at area restaurants and buying tickets to the tournment."
A spectator staying for the duration of the tournament in an area hotel could spend more than $700 on accomodations alone, not including food or transportation costs. Five area hotels, including the Courtyard by Marriott, the Crowne Plaza of Hickory, the Holiday Inn-Express Hotel and Suites, the Fairfield Inn and the Hampton Inn, are official hotel providers for the Ensure Classic, according to the Classic's website.