Starting in March 2020, the pandemic created a challenge for athletes around the world – the Olympics were postponed, tournaments were canceled, and seasons were suspended. However, a few experiences were still made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of sponsors like Office Insurance of America (IOA), supporter of the Symetra Tour – the official qualifying tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
Throughout the year, John Ritenour and the team at IOA put their full effort into honoring the company’s ongoing commitment to this unique event. Through their dedication, they were able to help athletes experience a somewhat “normal” 2020 season and continue preparing for the 2021 tour.
IOA was founded in 1988 by John and Valli Ritenour. Headquartered in Longwood, Florida, IOA is a full-service insurance agency currently led by Chairman and CEO Heath Ritenour, John and Valli’s son. Today, it is one of the fastest-growing independent insurance agencies in the United States, with more than 1,300 associates located in more than 60 branches worldwide. In 2020, IOA was ranked 11th on Insurance Journal‘s Top 100 Independent Property/Casualty Agencies report and 25th on Business Insurance‘s 100 Largest Brokers of U.S. Business list.
John Ritenour, IOA, and the Symetra Tour
For years, IOA has been a dedicated sponsor and supporter of the Symetra Tour – the official developmental tour for the LPGA and is open to both professional women golfers and qualified amateurs. In 2017, Ritenour announced that IOA would sponsor a third tournament on the tour, making it the first company to title that many events. The agency continues to positively impact the tour’s operations.
The LPGA was founded in 1950 and is one of the world’s longest-running women’s professional sports associations. It boasts the largest number of women golfers, all dedicated to the advancement of the sport. LPGA tournaments bring together the world’s top athletes, who compete in official money events throughout the season.
As the official qualifying tour of the LPGA, the Symetra Tour seeks to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career in the LPGA. Established in 1981, the tour is known as “The Road to the LPGA.” Top finishers at the end of each season receive playing privileges on the main LPGA Tour for the following year. The association acquired the Symetra Tour in July 2007. Since 2012, the tour has grown exponentially from 16 tournaments and $1.7 million in prize money to more than 24 tournaments and $4 million in prize money.
2020 Symetra Tour Hosted by John Ritenour and IOA
Despite the restrictions that were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, several tournaments were successfully held in 2020. Sponsors such as IOA, led by John Ritenour and his team, took the lead in creating a safe and healthy environment for golfers to participate in throughout the year.
2020 IOA Championship
The IOA-sponsored Symetra Tour Championship was held at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Beaumont, California, August 21-23, 2020. Fatima Fernandez Cano held a one-shot lead going into the final day and was able to secure her first Symetra Tour win. Regarding her victory, Fernandez Cano stated, “I feel like, in a way, it has been a long time coming … I’ve been feeling really good about my game lately, and I’ve been in contention many times out here between last year and this year. I finally got it done, and I don’t really have the words to express it. It’s just a little bit overwhelming.”
2020 IOA Golf Classic
The Alaqua Country Club played host to the IOA Golf Classic September 25-29, 2020, in Longwood, Florida. Laura Wearn seized victory on the final day, outscoring her two top competitors – Samantha Wagner and Haylee Harford. Wearn took home $22,500 in prize money and her third career title. “I feel incredible,” she said. “I’m still in shock. I don’t really believe it, but I’m sure once I get home, everything will … feel real. It was a great playoff. The part [when] I made a birdie on the [18th] in regulation was incredible. That is probably the best putt I’ve made in my career so far. In the playoff, [the ball] was in the exact same spot. I mean, it couldn’t have been more than a couple of inches away, so I was feeling pretty good about it.”
2020 IOA-Sponsored Symetra Tour’s Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship
John Ritenour and IOA sponsored their third Symetra Tour tournament October 15-17, 2020, with golfers competing at the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.
Prior to the tournament, Ritenour reflected on the moment: “So much has been taken away from players on the Symetra Tour this year,” He continued, “For the team at IOA, being able to give [these athletes] something to celebrate is something for us to celebrate. That’s why we are so excited to lend our support and present the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship.”
Winning the tournament was Matilda Castren, who scored her first professional title. Castren shared, “It’s definitely a confidence boost to have a win.” She continued, “I feel like my game is in a good spot, and I just … want to keep playing. I’m glad there [are] more tournaments coming up. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people, and I think … I speak for all the players [when I say] we really appreciate this tournament coming together … on such short notice.”
IOA Continues LPGA Sponsorship in 2021
The LPGA enters its 41st season in 2021 with continued support from Ritenour and the team at IOA. This season’s events, including IOA-sponsored tournaments, yet again provide competing athletes the opportunity to grow and shine.
2021 IOA Championship
IOA sponsored its first event of the season, the IOA Championship, at Morongo Casino Resort and Spa , March 26-28. Top competitors went head-to-head in the 54-hole tournament. On the final Sunday, Sophie Hausmann secured her first professional win, carding four birdies and two bogeys for a 2-under 70. “I am feeling pretty good. I didn’t really know … where I was on the leaderboard when I was out there,” she said. “I knew it was windy and I had to stick to my game. Par was my friend, and if I made birdie, that was great. I … sneaked onto the 18 green and told myself, ‘OK, you actually played pretty good today.”
John Ritenour’s Continued Dedication to Athletics
It is no surprise that Ritenour has contributed so much to the Symetra Tournament. He has long supported athletics and strongly appreciates the values sports instill in those who participate.
Ritenour has provided sponsorship and support far beyond the LPGA and Symetra Tournament. Most notably, his company has insured or sponsored the following teams:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Charlotte Hornets
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Orlando Magic
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Wizards
In 2019, IOA debuted the LPGA’s Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Held at Lake Buena Vista, Florida, this premier event features winners from the past two LPGA Tours, as well as other professional athletes and high-profile celebrities. Ritenour and his team were overjoyed to participate in the tournament, pitting professional women golfers against each other in a 72-hole round, while amateurs and celebrities play a modified Stableford format. IOA sponsored the event again in 2020.
To ensure his legacy, Ritenour has established the IOA Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps kids from infancy to college. Its most prominent initiative is the annual SimplyIOA Corporate 5k, which is commonly known as “Orlando’s largest office party.” The event is held exclusively for Florida’s corporate community and allows businesses and non-profit organizations to form teams to run the race. Participants get to enjoy the camaraderie of friendly competition and celebrate their co-workers during this fun-packed day. IOA has supported this event since its establishment in 1995. Through this race, IOA has successfully made health and wellness a priority in Florida’s corporate community. Proceeds from the event have helped to support countless organizations in the Central Florida region, including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Christian Service Center, and Track Shack Youth Foundation.
Ritenour shared: “I’ve been so blessed both financially and with the people surrounding me, and I haven’t forgotten where I came from … It’s so important to give back. The best things I’ve ever done in my life were about giving back to people.”
From the Golden State to the Sunshine State, aspiring LPGA golfers and other athletes will continue to play well into the future thanks to the dedication and financial support of Ritenour and the IOA team.