I’m sure like most golf fans last weekend your TV’s were tuned into Jack’s Memorial Tournament as well as the Women’s US Open. Two solid layouts tested the game’s best. Even Tiger Woods made a splash on Saturday. I also wanted to see a bit of Shoal Creek once again.
What I scratched my head about was the earlier date for the Women’s Open. It took me by surprise. Usually this event takes place in late June, early July. Obviously I was unaware they moved this championship up in their calendar year. I’m not sure if this is a permanent change or simply a one time switch. Either way, one man has to also be scratching his noggin too with these date moves.
Herb Kohler, the man that turned a plumbing company into a serious player in the golf industry, might be wondering what he needs to do to catch a break. You might recall last year the PGA announced a move of their championship from August to May beginning in 2019. This decision basically eliminated Kohler from hosting a PGA major championship ever again. The Ryder Cup is coming in 2020 but after that the future of tournament golf coming to the Wisconsin shores of Lake Michigan looks bleak.
It can be argued such a move is indicative of golf’s Me-Too movement. Previous dates of Women’s US Opens and Men’s PGA Championships have been conducted in the middle months of summer. These dates often eliminated southern venues from hosting tournaments due to heat, course conditions and the potential to draw fans out to watch players in 95 degree heat. Sure, it was a bit warm at Shoal Creek last week, damp too. But going forward this won’t deter the USGA from changing their minds.
The PGA has previously contested it’s flagship event in Atlanta, Tulsa, Charlotte, and this year will travel to St Louis. I’ve played in August down in St Louis — it’s brutally hot at times. If the heat doesn’t get you the humidity will. Yet with the money and fame that goes along with winning a major championship today’s players would tee it up in hell if they could get the greens fast enough. Still, it pays to select sights that are conducive to weather and the other factors I mentioned.
Getting back to Kohler, he has hosted events conducted by the PGA and the USGA. He’s welcomed men and women, as well as PGA Club Professionals to his venues, Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. The events attracted record crowds, turned Sheboygan County into the golf capital of the world for a week and displayed the wonderful facilities and products Kohler offers. This television exposure subsequently brought players to the region for the ultimate golf vacation. You might argue the facility doesn’t need any more airing. Knowledgeable players know all about the four Pete Dye courses and the exceptional lodging available. But if you know Herb Kohler he likes the spotlight, specifically the golf spotlight. The prospect of being shut out of future tournaments opportunities, especially major championships, has to gnaw at him.
Wisconsin has enjoyed being on a major stage since 2004. Last year’s US Open brought the premier major (US Open) back to the Midwest. Unfortunately the low scores probably disturbed the USGA. They want a week of stringent conditions with scores close to par. Erin Hills had plenty of room but lacked in challenge.
For the good of the game it will be beneficial for USGA and PGA to take their championships to new locales. From a selfish standpoint I’ll miss the convenience of going to watch a major that is close by. Prominent sites in Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit will likely never see another PGA Championship or Women’s US Open. However I’ll eventually warm to seeing new layouts, watching the players negotiate their games around these courses and perhaps getting the opportunity to go play some of them.
Herb Kohler has done much to promote golf in Wisconsin. Securing three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup is a quite remarkable. Golf fans in the Badger State should tip their caps for his efforts. Yet, tournament golf is an amoeba. It gradually changes shapes and forms. Schedules and venues will continually be altered. This will continue due to various reasons, the most prominent one being money.
Will Wisconsin’s future include major championships? Many up here hope so. Your guess is as good as mine. Either way the one thing I’ll have in common with Herb Kohler is both of us will be scratching our heads over the recent schedule changes by the PGA and USGA. Hopefully a major will find it’s way back to Wisconsin, specifically Kohler. For what he’s done Herb deserves that accommodation.