Things have been very quiet down in Palm Beach Gardens, home of the PGA of America. Naturally the Open Championship is occupying the major stage at the moment. The association is possibly considering a date change with it’s major championship. It seems the PGA Tour (no affiliation with the PGA of America) would like to wrap their season up early before the full onset of the NFL schedule. They are nudging PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua to make the switch along with the Tour moving their flagship event, the TPC, back to March from May. It all makes perfect sense on paper, paper printed in dollar denominations.
I’ve commented on this issue previously. Frankly, I don’t want to see a change. There are a variety of reasons. I’ll highlight a few of them.
First, an August event offers a summer opportunity for some PGA members to take family and friends to the event. By August, professionals standing behind the counter and on the practice tee could use a break. I’ve taken my family to several PGA’s in the Midwest – Chicago, Minneapolis and Kohler. Attending a PGA in May with family wouldn’t allow the flexibility a summer date provides simply because kids are still in school.
Second, moving the date to May would certainly eliminate a Hazletine, Medinah, Whistling Straits, Oakland Hills or an Oak Hill from ever hosting a PGA Championship. The courses simply would not be ready in time. Taking these courses out of the rotation would be a huge mistake and alienate golf fans in northern locales. That’s not a wise decision when your association is promoting a game that is seeing it’s participation rate decline.
Third, Bevaqua has pointed out past championships have been played in nine of the twelve months of the year. Yet the last time the tournament was played outside of the summer occurred in 1971 at PGA National in Florida. In 1970 it was contested at Southern Hills in Tulsa, in August. Apparently Bevaqua doesn’t think forty-six years is a significant milestone in golf.
Yet another important consideration involves the selection of Ryder Cup/President’s Cup team members at the year’s final major. Nothing against the Open Championship but imagine it being the final major of the year. Now contemplate the impact of players trying to make their teams while competing in rain and 20+ mph winds. You say it’s the same for everyone. Not if you get stuck on the wrong side of the tee time draw.
I could cite additional reasons for not moving the date but those observations have probably been written already. I even see Jack Nicklaus is willing to allow his Muirfield Village host a PGA should the decision be made to switch dates. Now I like Nicklaus and his course is a great track, but Jack, don’t do fans north of Columbus who want to see live golf any favors.
Perhaps the two biggest reasons I am opposed to such a switch revolves around the association and it’s membership. Someone stands to make quite a profit from an August to May switchero and trust me, it won’t be the members of the PGA. Ahh, but the PGA is a non-profit organization so members are not allowed to partake in any monies gathered by the association. Yet you have to believe Bevacqua’s compensation is tied to bringing dollars into the PGA’s coffers. I would hope the CEO is not looking at this prospective change from a dollar and cents view, but I’ve never met the man and simply don’t know much about him. The only time he did attract national attention was during the silly dismissal process of past PGA President Ted Bishop – an un-professional moment for the world’s largest professional sporting organization.
I have a sickening feeling that once the PGA Championship arrives in Charlotte at Quail Hollow this August there will be a “surprise” announcement. Bevacqua and the PGA Officers (who you rarely see) will announce the Championship will move to May, perhaps in 2020. The PGA website indicates future venues through 2019 being contested in August. After that, things could change.
To me there is only one equitable way to decide whether to accommodate the PGA Tour by moving the event to May. Put it to a vote of the membership. After all, it is our championship. I’m sure every eligible voting member would like to have a say.
Don’t be surprised to see the major line up change in the near future. In the shadows of the firm breeze and gray skies encompassing Royal Birkdale this week the wheels are turning at PGA headquarters in Florida. One game, played over thousands of yards stands to lose the battle with one played over one hundred yards.