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Whitcomb blog: An event-packed week even before golf
From the moment that I arrived here in Rochester, I have been overwhelmed with the incredible pride and performance of everyone here at Oak Hill. There is so much hard work that goes into hosting a major championship, but they certainly make it look easy. You have to think they've hosted a big tournament before. Actually, let's give them a great kudos for being the only course to have hosted six men's national championships: the Ryder Cup, the PGA Championship, the Senior PGA Championship, the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Senior Open. How's that for some course history?
I arrived here Saturday night because we had a sponsors and volunteers reception here on Sunday. I expressed my appreciation then, and I'd like to do it here as well, what a tremendous job and service they do. We can't have these championships without the volunteers, and they have really turned out for this tournament. The members who chaired various committees, what a yeomen's effort they've all given. I am so thrilled at what I see here. We have over 2000 volunteers helping us this week. These are people who take time out of their busy lives to make this tournament as outstanding as it is for us. Whether it's manning gate crossings, parking lot, or help or picking up litter, they do it with a smile. I tell you, this is a special club and Rochester is a special sports town.
On Monday, I attended a Play Golf America Day at Genessee Valley Golf Course. We had around 200 people show up. That might not sound like a huge number - until I tell you that it was really cold there. I mean really cold. But we adjusted a bit and still had a great time. Our speeches were a little shorter but the smiles were as big as ever. Dennis Walters, who will be this year's recipient of the PGA Distinguished Service Award, put on a tremendous presentation for the kids there. As always, he did a fantastic job, but there was something missing. His beloved dog and friend - Benji Hogan - recently passed away after 13 great years. I'd be remiss in not acknowledging that Benji's absence was noted and he is missed.
But the Play Golf America Day is special. One of my major points of emphasis as President of the PGA of America has been that it is important for us to not just work with, but to embrace, the communities who do so much for us when they host our championships. This is one of the ways that we do this and it's always one of my favorite times of the week.
On Monday night I attended the Pro-Am Draft Party. And by sheer luck, no kidding, my team got a fellow by the name of Denis Watson. You may have heard of him, we like to refer to him as our "Defending Champion."
On Tuesday, the defending champion and I participated in the Pro-Am. And I'm quite proud to say that our team shot 11-under par and managed a tie for second place. For our efforts, we got a replica Alfred S. Bourne Trophy. Yes, just like the other champions have. Well, maybe not just like. I think the one Denis Watson showed off last year might be about 100 times bigger, but hey, it's still a trophy that I'm very proud of and it will be prominently displayed in my clubhouse back in Oregon.
Much more importantly, 100 percent of all proceeds from that Pro-Am go to the PGA Foundation which does so much good work including things like the Play Golf America Day we had on Monday. And while we're on the topic, it's important for me to take a moment to thank the 28 elite players who took time out of their schedules to participate in the Pro-Am. Without their support, we don't have near the success that we've been so fortunate to have with these programs.
And then last night, we had our Champions Dinner, and as it always is, it was an incredible event. The past champions were there and you get such a great sense of pride among that fraternity about what they've accomplished and what they represent. To give you some insight into what occurs at these dinners, one of the highlights is a video tribute to the host and defending champion. By the end of that video, Denis had tears in his eyes. The amount of work, the challenges overcome, the pain and exhaustion and the pressure that a player overcomes to join this elite group - to reflect on the effort really is emotional.
And today, I've been busy with many activities but foremost might be the honoring of Carol Mann as our PGA First Lady of Golf. Obviously, Carol is a special lady, but she's a special lady in so many ways. In fact, in every way. As a humanitarian, she is one of the most generous, giving people I've ever had the pleasure to encounter. As a player, she was so dominant as her Hall-of-Fame credentials show. Did you know she won 10 events on the LPGA Tour - in one year! She was Annika or Lorena before there was an Annika or Lorena. Her service to the LPGA, the World Golf Hall of Fame, and to so many of golf's associations has made an indelible mark that will endure a long, long time. And as a PGA Professional, her contributions to golf and the growth and promotion of the game are amazing. I think the way I'd sum up this year's First Lady of Golf is to proudly note that we need more Carol Manns in the golf world.
So the events thus far this week have been a tremendous success, and oh by the way, the 69th Senior PGA Championship tees off in the morning. The course is immaculate, beyond what anyone thought even possible. We knew the course would be spectacular, but it is pristine right now - which surprises me a bit considering how early it is in the season for the area. But it is practically perfect. But I tell you, it's tough. On top of that, we're having a little stretch of cold and windy weather. It is all the test and challenge you could hope to have, but keep in mind, these are the best senior players in the world. I can't wait to watch the action unfold. I hope you all follow the action on television or PGA.com, I know you'll be glad you did. See you tomorrow.