The PGA Tour is just outside Philadelphia this week for the AT&T National at the beautiful Aronimink Golf Club. Justin Rose picked up his second career Tour win at Aronimink in 2010 and returns as the defending champion.
Before the tournament gets started on Thursday morning, we caught up with Aronimink PGA Head Professional Jeff Kiddie for a little Q&A.
PGA.com: Thanks for joining us, Jeff. The world got a good look at Aronimink during last year's AT&T National and it's a beautiful venue with the old-time feel. What separates Aronimink from other courses on the PGA Tour schedule?
Kiddie: There aren't that many regular tour stops that play courses as old as ours. Like a lot of other courses from the era of 'the golden age of design,' the greens at Aronimink are pretty severe. In the early 1900s, greens weren't played at the speeds that they are today so they created interest with the shapes and undulations. So with the modern technology and agronomic practices we have really fast greens with great shapes and contours. Nick Faldo raved about our greens during the television broadcasts last year and I would agree with him that our green complexes are what separates Aronimink from most other courses on the PGA Tour. Donald Ross designed many great courses, but I would argue that there may not be a better set of 18 greens in all of the courses that he did.
PGA.com: Justin Rose is your reigning champion. He really had a breakout season on Tour last year and a win at your place was his second in three starts. There have been enormous expectations placed on Rose since that incredible run he had as a teenager at Royal Birkdale. What was it like to see him win for a second time at your course?
Kiddie: It's always great to see somebody that showed so much promise as a teenager prove that it wasn't just a fluke. He is such a consistent player and seems like he is on the verge of being another one of the younger superstars on the PGA Tour. It's also great for us that he plays full-time in the United States. Many of these great, young Europeans only play a handful of events in the States.
PGA.com: Tournament host Tiger Woods isn't able to play this week as he continues to recover from injury. However, he will still be in town to take care of his hosting duties. What does that mean to the event?
Kiddie: Obviously the spectators would rather be watching him out on the course and I'm sure he'd much rather be playing. However, it proves how much this event means to him and to his foundation. It is great that he is participating in the opening ceremonies and several other of the tournament activities and it's nice that the kids that are here to see him still get to see him. Hopefully he'll be back in action soon.
PGA.com: What's one aspect of your job that people might be surprised to hear?
Kiddie: Some people might be surprised to hear that our professional staff is responsible for the merchandise operation for the tournament. From product selection to the final sale, we handle it all. This is our second year of doing this and I think we learned a few things last year to improve upon this year, but it is still a big responsibility.
PGA.com: Is there one particular thing you enjoy most about being the host professional for a PGA Tour event? If so, what is it?
Kiddie: The thing I enjoy most about being the host professional is seeing how much people enjoy seeing our course and facility. It's fun listening them get to the eighth hole, which is a very challenging par 3, and hearing them talk about how great the hole looks. For the vast majority of the spectators it is their first time being on the property and hopefully they have a terrific experience and have fond memories of being at Aronimink.
It's also fun for my staff and me to see how the best players in the world play our course. It's great to talk to them to see what they like about the course and what about it really challenges them.