MCDERMOTT COLUMN: Looking beyond the PGA to what’s next for Ocean Course
Playing host to a big-time pro golf tournament is sort of like proposing to someone who wants a fancy wedding. Both are serious, time-consuming commitments that demand lots of planning and collaboration, not to mention a hefty budget, to pull it off correctly.
And once the special weekend arrives, everyone who saved the date prays for clear skies, cold drinks and lifelong memories.
The famed Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, the site of the 2012 PGA Championship this weekend, has been down the aisle twice before with the PGA of America on its arm.
In 1991, one of the most electrifying U.S.-vs.-Europe Ryder Cup competitions unfolded at the newly built layout. Next up at Pete Dye’s seaside masterpiece was the Senior PGA Championship, though not until some 16 years later.
Today, as the first “major” championship ever to be played on South Carolina soil draws to a close, local golf nuts are surely beginning to wonder: What’s next for Kiawah and the Ocean Course as far as big-ticket tournaments go?
The answer will depend in large part on the success of the 2012 PGA Championship, organizers agreed.
The early feedback is favorable.
Joe Steranka, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, called the public and private investment that went into the event “extraordinary.”
“We’re very pleased with support we’ve gotten ... in words, deeds and money,” Steranka said Tuesday at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Sanctuary hotel.
One issue the PGA of America is expected to look at closely is how Kiawah handled the large crowds that descended on the barrier island over the past week. Steranka noted that the PGA had to limit its maximum daily ticket sales to about 27,000 “due to the unique geographical location here.”
Restating the case
All of that will go into the mix as PGA planners and number crunchers chalk up the hits and misses since Tiger Woods surveyed the Ocean Course during an early practice round Monday morning.
“We’ll do a debrief in the weeks to come,” Steranka said.
Regardless, the long layout clearly has earned a place among the most compelling tournament venues in the world, he added.
“There aren’t too many Kiawah Islands,” Steranka said. “My guess is that it will stay within the long-term view of organizations like the PGA of America and other golf organizations.”
It doesn’t hurt that the PGA closing rounds this weekend are being aired in about 120 countries and are expected to reach more than a half-billion households.
“We really look at Kiawah as one of the gems of American golf, and it’s going to get presented this week better than it’s ever been shown,” Steranka said.
South Carolina tourism chief Duane Parrish called the ’91 Ryder Cup and the ’07 Senior PGA “test runs” that paved the way for this year’s major. Future high-profile events, whether another PGA Championship or Ryder Cup, are likely to follow, he predicted.
“This is sort of restating the case,” Parrish said of the 2012 PGA.
In the affirmative
Few are more plugged into the PGA of America’s way of thinking than Roger Warren, a former president of the Florida-based organization. Warren also happens to be a chief organizer of the 2012 PGA in his role as president of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which owns the Ocean Course.
In one sense, Kiawah is like a Keegan Bradley or Rory McIlroy: promising young players who won their first major title early on and are now seeking another.
“I think ... you have to earn that second,” Warren said.
Only the ground rules are different for course owners.
“We told the PGA we can do this, and we can do that. So now the measuring stick is what we do and what we accomplish this week,” Warren said Tuesday.
He rattled off some key questions PGA organizers will be digging into in the weeks ahead.
“How easy it is to get here? How good are the logistics? How much of a positive experience is the event for people? How much do the players like the golf course and respect the golf course?”
Today, Warren will be focused on the task at hand: closing out and celebrating South Carolina’s first major golf championship.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring to the Ocean Course.
Another major, perhaps?
“I think it’s one of those things where they come and ask you,” Warren said. “We’re looking forward to just proving we’re a worthy site and letting people say, ‘Do you want to do it again?’ ”
He already knows how Kiawah would respond to such a proposal.
“We would say yes,” he said.
Reach John P. McDermott at 937-5572