PGA big for golf in the state

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland cheers along with the crowd as he wins the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course. Grace Beahm/Staff/File

Just as a rising tide floats all boats, the PGA Championship provides a big lift for golf throughout South Carolina. Not only did the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course positively impact Kiawah Island Golf Resort, it was hailed as a success for Charleston and the entire Palmetto State.

So when word got out Monday night that the event is returning to the Ocean Course in 2021, golf officials were ecstatic. Kiawah Island Golf Resort and the PGA of America are scheduled to make the official announcement Friday morning.

“That’s fantastic news,” said Happ Lathrop, executive director of 275-club South Carolina Golf Association. “If you look back and see how few really major events we’ve had and look at what’s happening in our state, it’s telling the world this is the place to come. I think this sends out a message that ‘We believe in South Carolina and particularly in the Charleston area.’ It’s an incredible thing for our state. Economically, it will be a boom like it was the last time. It was huge.”

The 2012 PGA Championship had an estimated economic impact of $193 million, and one of the beneficiaries was Kiawah’s neighbor, Seabrook Island.

“We love the fact that it’s coming back. It was tremendous to the island. It increased visibility of Seabrook a tremendous amount and for us it generated a lot of revenue,” said Caleb Elledge, general manager and chief operating officer of Seabrook Island Club.

Not only were Seabrook Island villas and homes rented during the tournament, Elledge said Seabrook Island Club entertained several corporate groups and held a large golf outing. He added that each year since Seabrook has enjoyed five to 10 percent growth, probably a combination of an improving economy and the 2012 PGA Championship.

“From a marketing standpoint, it was awesome as well,” Elledge added. “Kiawah is definitely a household name. We’re not. We understand that and that’s fine. One of the nice things is that with us being near, that’s the way we get a lot of property owners and club members. They come down to see Kiawah and it goes from there.”

Elledge said tee times at Seabrook Island’s two courses were “pretty much rock solid for a stretch of five or six days” during the 2012 PGA Championship.

At Wild Dunes Resort, director of golf Jeff Minton said the golf impact was bigger than lodging which is usually well booked during August.

“I’m speaking really for all of Charleston golf,” Minton said. “We really saw an increase in rounds during that whole week, mainly from out of town guests who were coming for the tournament, people from all over the world. We did have some weather issues, so we lost a few days. That would have been, at least at Wild Dunes, one of our biggest Augusts that we’ve had in many years and you can attribute it to (the PGA Championship). We talked with people and that was what they were here for.”

Charleston Municipal Golf Course didn’t see a big increase in rounds, but did benefit from exposure as a result of the PGA Championship. On the Sunday prior to tournament week, the PGA of America held its PGA Sports Academy Youth Clinic at Municipal for approximately 100 youth golfers.

This will be the fifth time the PGA of America has come to the Ocean Course, which previously hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup, 2005 PGA Club Professional Championship, 2007 Senior PGA Championship, and the 2012 PGA Championship.