The wide world of sports in Lake County

New plans in works for volleyball, golf, fishing, and disc golf.

We already know Lake County draws high-caliber triathlon events and is home to the National Training Center, one of the most state-of-the-art facilities of its kind in the country. However, plenty of other exciting things are happening on the local sports scene.


Volleyball is spiking upward

Featuring 21 professional courts, the $400,000 sand volleyball complex at Hickory Point Park in Tavares is the largest in Florida and the third-largest in the United States. It has hosted prestigious tournaments such as the Florida USA Volleyball Beach Series, the first Florida high school beach volleyball state championships, and the ROX VB Series National Championships.

Now, the facility will receive an upgrade. The 4,000-square foot Hickory Point Beach Fieldhouse will be built adjacent to the sand volleyball courts and is expected to open in spring 2018. It will feature locker rooms with showers, restrooms, meeting rooms, a training room, and a concessions area.

“It’s very exciting to have a state-of-the-art complex right here in our backyard that draws both high-caliber beach volleyball tournaments and world-class volleyball players,” says Steve Bishop, executive director of the Florida Region of USA Volleyball.

Bonus shot

Mission Inn Resort & Club will serve as one of four qualifying sites for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica’s international development tour. The tournament at El Campeón golf course will be held Jan. 9-12.

Officials expect that each qualifying tournament will have 120 players vying for PGA Tour Latinoamerica membership, according to a press release. The organization will award membership to the top 35 finishers and those tied for 35th.

The other qualifying sites are Estrella del Mar Golf and Beach Resort in Mexico, Club Los Lagartos in Colombia, and Pilara Golf Club in Argentina.

Go park it

The 141-acre South Lake Regional Park, which will be built off State Road 50 between Clermont and Groveland, will likely enter the construction phase in 2018. The park will include running trails, bicycle trails, hiking trails, eight softball fields, four baseball fields, and a dog park.

“This will be a destination,” County Commissioner Sean Parks says. “Also, the cost is minimal because nobody is buying land. We’re simply using what we already have.”

Giving disc golf a whirl

In 2017, city leaders from Leesburg, Eustis, and Mount Dora approved new disc golf courses. This means the Lake County Economic Development and Tourism Department is closer than ever to creating the Lake County Disc Golf Trail, a series of six, 18-hole, championship-caliber courses built in city and county parks.

The golf trail means Lake can host prestigious tournaments and world championships while becoming one of the sport’s premier destinations.

“If we could get the world championships here, that would mean 10,000 hotel rooms right away,” says Joe Runnels, who serves as tournament director of the Lake County Disc Golf Club.

The game is similar to golf, except participants attempt to get a disc into the hole—the hole is a metal basket on a five-foot pole—in as few throws as possible. The sweet sound of plastic disc on metal chain means participants completed a hole and can move to the next one.

Unlike golf, there are no balls or clubs. Instead, aerodynamic discs of varying weights serve as putters, midranges, and drivers. And the biggest obstacles are not bunkers and sand traps but rather trees and bushes.

Swing into action

Christmas came early for residents of The Villages as two nine-hole golf courses—Gray Fox and Red Fox—opened in October at the Village of Fenney.

Gray Fox, a par-28 course situated in the Fenney Springs wetlands, sprawls across three islands, providing golfers with moderately challenging shots, as well as a scenic trek through nature. Red Fox, a par-28 course featuring a two-loop course design, offers various water features.


Hooked on fishing?

Lake County continues reeling in some big fishing tournaments. Here’s a small sampling of tourneys coming to the area in the next few months:

Feb. 3: Harris Chain of Lakes: Bass Pro Big Bass Tour

Feb. 22-25: Harris Chain of Lakes: Fishing League Worldwide Tour

March 24: Harris Chain of Lakes: Bassin Buddies Invite

May 12: Clermont Chain of Lakes: Bassin Buddies Invite