In a major vote of confidence in Charlotte before competition even begins at Quail Hollow Club, the top executive of PGA of America says the biggest golf tournament in the city’s history is likely coming back.
Future sites for the championship have been determined through 2023, with the 100th tournament next year set to be played in Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, so the earliest the championship could come back here would be 2024.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua said the championship “just really sets up well here at Quail Hollow,” which was awarded this year’s event in 2010.
“Of course we have to get through this week, but I would say that we can’t wait to get back here,” Bevacqua said. “It’s 100 percent in our plans to bring the PGA Championship back to Quail Hollow.”
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Bevacqua and other PGA of America executives heaped praise on Quail Hollow President Johnny Harris and the city of Charlotte as it hosts its first golf major ever.
“Charlotte has just rolled out the red carpet,” Bevacqua said. “This has the makings of a really wonderful championship.”
Chief Championship Officer Kerry Haigh – responsible for overseeing nearly every logistical detail of the championship’s setup, from pin placement to weather contingency plans – said the overall playing surface of the course is “second to none.” He also likes the configuration of the entrance, and the fact that spectators are greeted with the final stop of the famed “Green Mile” finishing holes of the course.
“I’m not sure there’s a better experience in any championship golf venue than the minute the spectators get in and see the 18th green,” Haigh said. “It is unbelievable.”
PGA of America did not require Harris, the Quail Hollow president, to make a series of ambitious renovations to the course for the tournament, including a total transformation of four holes and all new greens, Haigh said. But the changes impressed the organization, and Harris got them done in less than three months.
“It was a team collaboration and something that we were supportive of and are certainly very impressed with,” Haigh said. “(We) could not be happier with the playing conditions.”
The last 48 hours have brought nearly an inch of rain to the Charlotte region, however, softening the course’s grass “more than we would want,” Haigh said. But “golf is an outdoor sport, and it is what it is.”
A return of one of golf’s four majors would be welcomed news to city officials and business leaders, who see the PGA Championship as an opportunity to showcase Charlotte as a good place to do business. The week-long tournament could have a total economic impact of up to $100 million on the region, tourism experts estimate.
The PGA of America announced Tuesday that the PGA Championship will move from its traditional August date to an undisclosed date in May starting in 2019. The move, of course, could affect the future date of the Wells Fargo Championship, a regular PGA Tour stop that is typically held in May at Quail Hollow.
To make room for the PGA Championship this year, the Wells Fargo Championship shifted from Quail Hollow to Wilmington, but it’s under contract to return to Charlotte in 2018 and 2019. Talks are underway between the bank, the nonprofit that runs the tournament, the PGA Tour and Quail Hollow about the tournament’s continuing after 2019, tournament spokesman Lee Patterson said, but the event’s future is still unclear.