Tiger Woods’ recent win at The Masters has re-energized the golf world. Add to that the immense amount of talent currently on Tour, and it looks like professional golf could not be in a better place.
The Pacific Northwest is blessed with some of the greatest courses in the country, yet there are no regular PGA Tour events anywhere to be found. Yes, Snoqualmie Ridge outside Seattle has hosted a Senior PGA Tour event since 2005, and it is quite successful. But it is just not the same.
The seniors, who play great, entertaining golf, put on a fantastic show. As do the women at the Portland Classic. They prove that seeing a golf tournament in person is an awesome experience, and it’s the case whether you’re a diehard fan of the game or just a casual observer.
Getting to see the best of the best, in their prime, should be a given for the Northwest, but there are no regular events in Washington, Oregon or Idaho. The fans are here, the courses are here (Hello Bandon Dunes), so why not?
The Tour says it’s a two-fold dilemma. Mainly, they don’t want to undermine the Senior Tour event. They fear consumers would choose the PGA over the Seniors and reduce attendance. It’s a valid point.
The second reason has to do with money. Putting on a regular tour event is not cheap. Securing major corporate sponsorships is a huge endeavor as well.
So where does that leave Northwest golf-viewing fans?
Major Tournament golf is our only hope.
There are four Majors each year: The Masters, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the (British) Open Championship. The Masters is the only tournament held on the same course each year.
The Northwest has been blessed twice with hosting two ‘Majors’ in the last 20 years. The first was the PGA Championship held in 1998 at the Sahalee Country Club in Redmond, Washington. Most recently, Chambers Bay in Tacoma was the site of the 2015 U.S. Open. It was the first Open in the 115-year history of the championship to be played in the Northwest.
I spent the entire week of that tournament walking the grounds and watching the golf. For a huge fan of the game it was like being a kid in a candy store. The best players in the world competing on a course in my hometown. Wow!
The image of Jordan Spieth raising the trophy as the sun set with the Puget Sound in the background is still fresh in my head. I want more.
The course took a beating that week as unseasonably hot weather dried up the course, much to the chagrin of many of the players. And they weren’t quiet about it.
Billy Horschel said he lost respect for the USGA and their set up of the course. Henrik Stenson compared the Chambers Bay greens to “broccoli,” and Rory McIlroy insisted they were really more like “cauliflower.”
Not the most ringing endorsements.
So, what’s the solution for getting more Majors in the Northwest? I think it all falls into the lap of the folks at Chambers Bay. A friend of mine on the finance committee at Sahalee says membership doesn’t want more tournaments. Does Bandon Dunes have the facilities to put on a huge tournament? Are there any other courses in the Northwest even on the PGA or USGA’s radar?
It comes back to Chambers Bay.
The reason I’m telling you all this? I recently played the course after it re-opened with all new greens. The golf course closed in October so its fine fescue grass could be replaced with poa annua, the predominant golf grass in the Northwest. The $238,000 project got underway after all the complaints about the dirt-and-sandpaper greens ruining the Open.
If the new greens are what it is going to take for golf to come back to Tacoma, I can say first-hand it was a great move. Granted, I played the course just a week after it reopened, but I found the new putting surfaces to be in great shape. Give them some time to mature over the summer, and I really think Chambers Bay is on to something.
The greens remodel still left in place all the tricky undulations and nasty lies, but the new grass is smooth as can be. In due time, any pro coming back to Tacoma will be pleasantly surprised with the consistency. They kept all the features that make Chambers Bay unique, and it still gives golfers a true test. A championship test.
The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be the dry run in 2021 to see if the new greens are what the golf world is looking for. I, for one, hope it passes the test. I want more golf in my neighborhood.