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Charlotte scores an ace with 2021 Presidents Cup

The news conference on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, announcing the 2021 Presidents Cup will be played at Quail Hollow Club.
The news conference on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, announcing the 2021 Presidents Cup will be played at Quail Hollow Club. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Webb Simpson walks onto the stage at Quail Hollow Club on Wednesday and looks at the deep gold Presidents Cup trophy as if he’s giving it an examination. Perhaps he’s a mesmerized fan who can’t look away.

Simpson, 29, is a fan. He’s also a member of the 2011 U.S. team that won the Presidents Cup at the Royal Melbourne (Australia) Golf Club. So he and the trophy have a history.

Quail Hollow, where Simpson also is a member, will host the Presidents Cup in 2021. The PGA Tour made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday.

“When I first heard that the President’s Cup was coming here I got extremely excited,” says Simpson. “I calculated quickly how old I’d be and realized that hopefully I’ll be in the prime of my career and ready to make that team.”

How old will you be when Quail Hollow hosts the tournament?

“Thirty-five,” says Simpson. “Prime.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday at Quail Hollow that in the early 1990s Australia’s Greg Norman was for more than 300 weeks the No. 1 player in the world. Because he lived in neither the U.S. nor Europe, however, he was denied an opportunity to compete in the Ryder Cup.

In 1994 a match-play event was created to give golfers outside Europe that opportunity. Twelve-man teams from the U.S. and the non-European part of the world compete every two years.

Here’s an example of Presidents Cup pull. A 9 a.m. news conference was held Wednesday to announce a tournament six years away. Still, the media show up on time.

“I think it’s a sporting event that’s far more exciting than a regular tour event,” Simpson said. “I think loyalty is out there where in an individual tournament you’re following one person and your loyalty is to him. But now you’re cheering not only for 12 players but an entire country. It’ll have an exciting feel the entire week and something Charlotte will want back as soon as Commissioner Finchem will give it to them.”

Every city wants to be recognized. When cameras capture the Charlotte skyline on “Monday Night Football,” you want to tell your friends: Look at us; this is what we have.

When the Presidents Cup is televised from Charlotte, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory will want to tell his friends.

“This is an international golf tournament which will bring an international spotlight,” the former Charlotte mayor said. “And then in the long term that will bring free advertisement and jobs to the Carolinas. Because when I go out to Europe or to Asia to recruit the Carolinas, to recruit North Carolina and Charlotte, they’ll go, ‘Yeah, that’s where the Presidents Cup was.’ And it’s going to look great on TV.”

Bringing the sport to a larger audience isn’t new. Johnny Harris, the Quail Hollow president, said professional golfers have long done it, and specifically mentions Arnold Palmer and Charlie Sifford.

Sifford, who died three weeks ago at the age of 92, was a Charlotte native. A cigar perpetually dangling from his mouth, he was the first black golfer to crack the PGA Tour.

“He was a man who stood up for what he believed,” says Harris. “But he also began to bring this game to other people. And this (the Presidents Cup) is nothing more than taking the game and putting it on an international platform and continuing the fine work that Arnold and Charlie and all the great players on the tour do.”

On Wednesday, a bleak day in a bleak month in what so far has been a bleak year, an international tournament in the early fall is a pleasant diversion.

Simpson is still thinking about the trophy.

“We’re having a putting contest in 2011 in Australia,” he says. “And one of us hit a putt too hard and might have dented it a little bit. I was looking for the dent. And I think it’s fixed.”

Sorensen: 704-358-5129; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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