Robert Alipanah is hoping that golf fans watching the State Farm Senior Classic will swing by his restaurant while they're in the area.
"Since I'm a seafood restaurant and not too far from them, I'm hoping that I get a good crowd," said the owner of Atlantis Seafood in the Harper's Choice Village Center, which by yesterday was already seeing new faces in the dining room and potential customers dropping by to check out the menu.
With the State Farm Senior Classic being held this week in Columbia and record crowds expected, Alipanah is one of many local business owners hoping the tournament will mean more money in their cash registers.
The Senior Classic, which is part of the Senior PGA Tour, began with practice rounds Monday and Tuesday, followed by pro-am play Wednesday and yesterday. The official competition among 78 professional senior golfers begins today.
This is the third year Hobbit's Glen has played host to the tournament, and the tournament organizers and the PGA are talking about whether the Senior Classic will return for another three years. "The event brings a great deal of prestige to the area," said Lee Corrigan, the tournament director. "This is a professional golf tournament attracting the legends of the game."
The week's events are expected to draw a total of about 100,000 people to the Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, Corrigan said. It brought 60,000 visitors last year and 90,000 the year before that, he said.
"As do many major tourism events, it touches many lives and many businesses," said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics at RESI, the consulting arm of Towson University.
Basu estimated that the tournament will bring about $10 million to the region, between providers of food and supplies for the event itself and revenue for local hotels, restaurants and retailers.
COHO Grill, the restaurant in the Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, has closed to the public this week and will be serving the pros and their families omelets for breakfast and Atlantic salmon and roasted pork loin for lunch in the dining room, said manager Ellie Ennis.
Some business owners said it is difficult to gauge the effects of the tournament.
For the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, the PGA Tour increasing business is usually par for the course. The hotel is busier than usual this week, said Jerry Smith, the hotel's general manager. But the July 4th holiday, coupled with a softball tournament the hotel played host to earlier in the week, meant fewer rooms available this year for tournament visitors. And Tony Moynagh, general manager of Clyde's and the Tomato Palace restaurants in Columbia, said it's tricky to tell how much business the tournament generates because warm weekends usually mean full dining rooms.
"It's hard for us to put our finger on whether there's an excessive crowd because of the tournament," he said, "only because on weekends we're generally terribly busy anyway." Others in the area say the competition's benefits are more noticeable.
To help promote her store and tourism, Rose Mahoney spent the last two days at Hobbit's Glen, passing out fliers for her shop and a fan guide sponsored by the Howard County Tourism Council.
Mahoney is the owner of MacBirdie Golf Gifts, a theme shop on Main Street in Ellicott City stocked with gifts from wooden golf ball cabinets to golf afghans to a mini-grill shaped like a golf ball.
"Everyone that's out there is going to either be a golfer or know someone who plays golf," she said, "And they're going to eventually need a gift." At the time of last year's tournament, Mahoney had just opened her store so her expectations are not based on experience. Still, she's confident that the event will draw shoppers.
The Hilton Columbia, the official tournament hotel, is sold out through Saturday, said Teresa Kramer-Petrone, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.
"We're experiencing a phenomenal occupancy rate this week," she said, adding that the hotel's seafood grill and cigar bar, Morgan's, has been jammed for breakfast and seen a steady dinner crowd.
Bill King, owner of the Crab Shanty on U.S. Route 40 in Ellicott City, served dinner to some of the players last year and saw an overall sales influx of about 10 percent to 15 percent while the tournament was in town. This year, he predicted, "I'm sure it'll pretty much be the same."