By Michael Pramik
Posted On: Jun 2, 2021
This year's Bridgestone Senior Players Championship in Akron will feel like a real party.
The fans will be back at Firestone Country Club as the best players on the PGA's Champions Tour battle it out June 24-27 in the third of five majors on the Champions Tour calendar. The Senior Players has been held since 1983, and the classic Firestone South Course will be the perfect venue for 50-and-over pros to showcase their talents.
Tournament organizers are planning several additional activities for attendees as well, including live, post-round concerts Friday through Sunday. Cleveland-based band The Sunrise Jones will perform on Friday. Saturday's concert will feature northeast Ohio Americana band The Shootouts, and on Sunday, following the tournament award presentation, the Akron Symphony Orchestra will perform a set called American Bandstand.
It's the third year of a four-year run at Firestone for the Senior Players, which annually attracts many of the best players on the tour. The four-round tournament is set for Firestone through next year.
Jerry Kelly is the defending champion, and Retief Goosen took home the trophy in 2019.
Several ticket packages are available. Admission is free for first responders and members of the military throughout the tournament week. All attendees can enter the grounds for free after 4PM daily.
The South course is the most storied of Firestone Country Club's three 18-hole layouts. Designed by Bert Way, the course opened in 1929 and held its first professional tournament – the Rubber City Open Invitational – from 1954-59. It's since been the site of three PGA tournaments on professional golf's main tour.
The course is perhaps best known as the site of the NEC World Series of Golf tournament from 1962-98. With sponsorship from Bridgestone, it became the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, one of four annual world golf tournaments, every year but one from 1999-2018.
Arnold Palmer nicknamed the course "The Monster," and one hole lets you know why. It's the 667-yard, par-5 16th hole (with a pond in front of the green), which at once challenges the game's best and befuddles many spectators, who wonder how they could ever reach the putting surface in three shots.
What To Do
Like Firestone, Akron is about tradition. A good example is Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, the luxurious former home of F.A. Seiberling, the co-founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber.
Stan Hywet is an Old English term for a stone quarry, which the Seiberlings named the property because of a sandstone quarry on the site. The home opened in 1915, and it was in the family for 40 years. It's now open to the public.
The property includes 10 restored, historic gardens covering 70 acres, five houses and original furnishings. The main building is a stunning, 65-room Tudor Revival manor house of 65,000 square feet, with 23 fireplaces and more than 20,000 panes of glass.
The house and gardens are open for self-guided tours. There's a new outdoor history tour, a new performing arts series, special events and a history of a recent $6 million renovation of parts of the Manor House.
For an old-fashioned ride in the countryside, take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, the only nonprofit railroad that runs through a national park. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only one in Ohio, and it stretches from Akron to Cleveland.
The railroad is a nostalgic way to tour the park. It has two stops in Akron, one of which is only a dozen miles from Firestone Country Club. You’ll travel along with an all-volunteer crew in vintage rail cars. Most of the cars are more than 50 years old, and the locomotives are more than 70 years old.
There are several ride options, including a dinner train, a 3.5-mile scenic round trip or the Explorer, a one-way ride for those wishing to bike or hike throughout the park.
Where To Eat
Looking for something savory after the event? Seek out City Barbeque in Fairlawn. City Barbecue is an all-Ohio smoked meat joint, which will be serving volunteers at the Senior PGA.
City Barbeque got its start in Columbus in 1999, when founder Rick Malir took home first place in the American Royal World Series of Barbeque Invitational. It now has more than 50 locations in eight states.
"It was a smoked brisket recipe with bark rub that took home the prize," says Randy Arehart, a catering official with City Barbeque. "That turned a dream into a smokehouse reality."
Dig into the restaurant's brisket, chicken and ribs. Favorite sides include corn pudding, slaw, corn bread, potato salad and baked beans.
Photo credit: Courtyard by Marriott Akron Downtown, Facebook
Where To Stay
Akron has a host of hotel spaces near Firestone that appeal to many price points and services.
The best way to search for accommodations is to use the Stay In Akron website, sponsored by the Greater Akron Lodging Council. There are links to two dozen hotels, as well as directions to the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau website for things to do and places go while you're in town.
Photo credit: City of Akron Good Park Golf Course, Facebook
Where To Play
Firestone has a course that you can play anytime – the 9-hole Raymond C. Firestone course and driving range. It's also possible to play the three main courses at Firestone by scheduling overnight visits at a club room or guest villa. See the club's website for more information.
Akron also has several quality public courses that are worth a visit.
The J.E. Good Park Golf Course, three miles from downtown Akron, shares some heritage with Firestone – Wey designed it in 1924. Being an older-style course, "The Park" doesn't stretch out over a lot of ground. In fact, it plays to about 6,600 yards from the tips, and 6,200 yards from the regular tees. It's peppered with lots of trees, putting shot-making at a premium.
The park also has a neat, 9-hole course called Mud Run that’s perfect for young families. It's a par-34 with five sets of tees that accommodates young people as well as adults. The course includes a driving range and two practice greens.