Local Knowledge: 2012 PGA Championship
Ocean Course PGA Head Professional Stephen Youngner took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to share some insight on this week -- one he's been looking forward to for a long time.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- The year's final major, the PGA Championship, is upon us here at the breathtaking Ocean Course on the Kiawah Island Resort.
Before players teed off on Thursday, we caught up with Stephen Youngner, the PGA Head Professional at the Ocean Course for a little Q&A.
Youngner talked about the gratifying feeling of finally having Championship week here; touched on the forecasted weather; spoke about the daunting par-3 17th hole and more.
PGA.com: A lot has gone into planning for this week. What does it mean to you to finally have it be here?
Youngner: We're just so excited that the PGA Championship is finally here. It's been about seven years in the making and to see the transformation that's taken place has been amazing. The Ocean Course, with its sand dunes, isn't exactly meant to have platforms built on it. But, the PGA of America came in with their expertise and set it up for this incredible event.
Just a few months ago, there was virtually nothing out there. Now we have all these huge tents and grandstands. It was like building a little city.
This is the pinnacle for me. It doesn't get any better.
PGA.com: Can you tell us a little about your role this week? I'm sure it's a bit different than usual.
Youngner: It certainly is different, but it's a lot of fun. It's different in the sense that we have a major championship taking place; however, it's similar in that we want to give the players and spectators the same great Kiawah Island Resort experience that we give our guests the other 51 weeks each year.
As far as what I'm doing -- I'm wearing many hats this week. I'll be helping my staff in the locker room; we'll be on the driving range. I'm a member of the executive committee where I help with five different volunteer groups. We're all just setting out to accomplish our goals for the week and so far, so good.
PGA.com: How much of a factor do you expect the weather to be this week?
Youngner: It will be a bit of a factor, but even with all this rain we've had, this course drains so well. Remember -- we're sitting on sand. It soaks up the water pretty quickly. And I have to say, Jeff Stone and his crew has done an unbelievable job out there.
Of course, we'd all love to see the course play hard and fast for the PGA Championship, but that fact that it's not as hard and fast as we might like isn't going to take away from the tournament at all. It's in spectacular condition and I've been hearing a lot of compliments from the players.
PGA.com: Not many players will be looking forward to the par-3 17th hole coming down the stretch on Sunday. Can you tell us a little about that hole and what it is that makes it so difficult?
Youngner: It's just your typical Pete Dye, par-3 17th type of hole. There's trouble everywhere. If you're short right, you're in the water. If you're short or long left, you're in the sand dunes. It's a tough, tough hole. The leaders won't be looking forward to it, but I'm sure the guys that are trying to track them down will be looking forward to it.
That's the kind of hole that really depends on the wind. When it's gusting 20-25 mph, it's an even bigger beast. And at 223 yards to start without wind, it's already a beast. There will be a lot of action on that hole.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Stephen. I'm sure we have some folks out there reading this who will be attending the tournament this week. In your opinion, where's the best vantage point on the course for them to take in the tournament?
Youngner: Well, we just talked about No. 17 and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining spot than that. That's our signature hole at the Ocean Course. That hole is pretty much surrounded with grandstands and hospitality tents.
We've got a great big grandstand out there on No. 16 too, which was set up right on top of the dunes. So, you have the dunes that were already pretty high and now you've got the stands up high above that. You can catch that nice, refreshing ocean breeze up there.
There are a number of places to check out on the front nine as well. It tends to get a little tight on that front side, so we really encourage the spectators to maybe view things a little differently than they normally would this week. Instead of following one group where all the crowds are going to be, maybe pick a spot and sit there for a while to see what happens.
All in all, we're thrilled that this week is finally here. It's going to be a great one.