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By Chris Baldwin, PaperCity The Woodlands

Stacy Lewis grew up in The Woodlands, became a professional golfer from this unique community and credits its strong support of high school girls sports for helping make that happen. But even Lewis, who is such a believer in The Woodlands that she could be a tourism advocate, never expected to see a golf Major held in her hometown.

Until it happened with the Chevron Championship kicking off what will be at least a five year run in The Woodlands last April.

“It’s something that definitely growing up here, I thought would never happen,” Lewis says. “To bring a championship like this to The Woodlands, it’s been awesome.”

It is also just part of a month that now regularly puts The Woodlands in the national and international spotlight, showcasing that the pioneering master planned community that George Mitchell envisioned 50 years ago has grown into a major events mecca. In many ways, April stands out as a big event month in The Woodlands. Besides The Chevron Championship, which brings the best women golfers in the world to The Club at Carlton Woods from April 17 through April 21, the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas North American Championship (April 27), Insperity Invitational – PGA Champions Tour (April 29 through May 5) and The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival (April 12 through April 14) all bring thousands of guests and put an international spotlight on the community.

These mammoth events are different from each other, but one thing they all share is a community support that helps keep them going — and growing.

“It’s really made our job easier in that way,” says Jeremy Harvey-Samuel, the senior event manager for global sports and entertainment giant IMG, which helps put on The Chevron Championship. “How much The Woodlands and Houston have said, ‘Come, come, come. We want this to be part of our sports landscape.’”

They are not the only one. The Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas North American Championship signed a new multiyear agreement to stay in The Woodlands after more than a decade of success. Also, one of the largest — and most successful — triathlons in the world has become a staple of spring in The Woodlands.

“This is an important event for The Woodlands community,” senior vice president and CEO of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center and Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital Justin Kendrick notes. “Not only from a financial standpoint, but it also brings people from all ethnic backgrounds together to work together and support the participants and give back to their community.”

The Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas North American Championship is a beloved fixture in The Woodlands. (Courtesy Ironman)
The Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas North American Championship is a beloved fixture in The Woodlands. (Photo Courtesy Ironman.)

The Woodlands’ Ironman brings more than 2,500 athletes from 60 different countries to town every year and more than 3,000 local volunteers help make sure this beloved event is a success.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival’s footprint is also immense, drawing crowds in excess of 20,000 and spotlighting more than 150 artists. Regularly ranked among the top arts festivals in the country, the event transforms The Waterway into a thriving art land, with serious art collectors and families strolling from booth to booth.

The Insperity Invitational helped set the stage for The Woodlands emergence as a major events land. Now entering its 21st year, this PGA Champions Tour fixture brings the best golfers in the world aged 50 and over as well as some of the true legends of the game. Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam have become regulars at The Insperity, connecting with both golf lovers who watched them in their heydays and entire new generations of fans. Everyone watches for free too — with this unique tournament charging no admission.

Jack Nicklaus, the man who's won more Majors than any golfer in history, is a regular at The Insperity Invitational. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jack Nicklaus, who’s won more Majors than any golfer in history, is a regular at the Insperity Invitational. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)

Of course, this is The Woodlands, a land of possibilities. For much of this month, as one major event rolls into another, The Woodlands will have the eyes of the sports and arts worlds on it.

“The crowds were amazing,” Nelly Korda, the No. 1 ranked women’s golfer in the world, says of that first Chevron Championship in The Woodlands last year. “The crowds that we have gotten, that followed my group, were really great.”

Korda also raved about how the LPGA Tour players were embraced by The Woodlands community, with many players staying for free at residents’ homes. This is the secret sauce of all these major events in The Woodlands. It is about an entire community rallying around the events to make sure they’re successful.

Nelly Korda will come into this year’s Chevron Championship as one of the hottest golfers in the world, having ripped off three straight wins this spring. The Woodlands is just as hot as a major events destination.

You can be sure this community is more than ready for another international closeup.

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Many thanks to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary Sponsors:

FOUNDING – Howard Hughes

PRODUCER – The Woodlands Township

LEGACY – Woodforest National Bank

HERITAGE – Waste Connections Inc.

GOLD – Entergy Texas, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital

SILVER – SVN/JBeard Real Estate, The John Cooper School