Starting this week in San Antonio, the PGA Tour again will come to Texas four times in 2014, giving Lone Star State residents plenty of opportunities to see their favorite golfers. While Texas golf fans seem to get all the attention, their neighbors to the west in New Mexico are still on the outside looking in.
New Mexico is one of 10 states that has never hosted a PGA Tour event. The pinnacle of professional golf also has been absent from northeast New England, Delaware, five states within the Mountain Time Zone and Alaska. Some of these states have hosted Nationwide, Champions and LPGA Tour events, but the locals haven't had the joy of seeing the PGA Tour stars.
Some states just barely avoided the have-not list. Nebraska was spared solely by the 1933 Nebraska Open, while Idaho's famed Coeur d'Alene Resort hosted the 1992 Merrill Lynch Shootout and Arkansas made headlines with the Arlington Hotel Open from 1955-63.
"No state, from our perspective, is off limits" in terms of hosting a PGA Tour event, said PGA Tour Executive Vice President Ty Votaw. "[But] there has to be community support to ensure continuity of an event."
Votaw added that finalizing event sponsorships and geographic location and weather are the top factors that determine PGA Tour event locations, whereas hotel space – a potential problem for Montana and North Dakota – isn't even a top-five factor. The key issue is that a tournament must be able to thrive for several years once the host course and title sponsor become linked. A one-time trip to Alaska – or anywhere else, for that matter – won't make the cut.
New Mexico, with its warm climate and elite courses such as Twin Warriors and Santa Ana, is potentially the top candidate of the 10 states to land the PGA Tour. Santa Ana, for instance, hosted Nike Tour (now the Web.com Tour) events in the early 1990s and a USGA women's event in 1999, while Twin Warriors played host to the PGA of America's prestigious PGA Professional National Championship in 2003 and 2009.
Santa Ana's PGA Director of Golf Derek Gutierrez thinks New Mexico is ready to play host, saying: "Both courses are extremely capable to host events of that stature."
Here is a list of courses most likely to host the PGA Tour in the 10 have-not states:
Alaska: Chena Bend Golf Course in Fort Wainwright – The Chena River winds through this course near Fort Wainwright military base. If the PGA Tour comes here, it had better be in mid-summer.
Delaware: Bayside Resort Golf Club in Selbyville – Designed by Jack Nicklaus, Bayside is set amid woodlands and salt marshes. The First State might be the first of the 10 to host the pros.
Maine: Sugarloaf Golf Club in Carrabassett Valley – Robert Trent Jones' mountain jewel would make a great fit for Jim Furyk and his caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan, a Maine resident.
Montana: Old Works Golf Club in Anaconda – Nicklaus' creativity glows here, as the course near the Continental Divide sits on the former site of a century-old copper smelter.
New Hampshire: Portsmouth Country Club in Portsmouth – Less than an hour's drive from Boston, the forested course plays along Great Bay. It's one of the Granite State's best.
New Mexico: Santa Ana Golf Course in Santa Ana Pueblo – Just 20 minutes north of Albuquerque, this links-style course weaves through the desert along the Rio Grande.
North Dakota: Hawktree Golf Club in Bismarck – This links-style design in a rugged prairie region features black-coal bunkers. The Hawk is calling. Will the PGA Tour answer?
South Dakota: Golf Club at Red Rock in Rapid City – Dramatic elevation changes are a feature at this course that routs through Black Hills terrain and has tall ponderosa pine trees.
Vermont: Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington – Situated in the majestic Green Mountains, Killington also has many up-and-down holes.
Wyoming: Powder Horn Golf Club in Sheridan – At this 27-hole gem, pros would enjoy the Mountain Nine, which has a small Swilcan Bridge replica, and the Stag Nine, with Old West charm.
Peter Kollmann is editorial assistant at The American Golfer, a book publisher in Greenwich, Conn., that will release "The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event" this spring.