By Allen Wronowski, PGA of America President
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- When you’re fortunate enough to be elected President of The PGA of America, a thousand thoughts race through your mind. But one of the first is how you’ll feel, act, behave when you attend your first PGA major championship as President. To continue my lucky streak, this year’s venue was Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, so I knew I had a tremendous venue with a great deal of experience hosting marquee events and a community that would turn out strong to support the Championship. And now that the week is over, I can excitedly say, it was even better than what I could have hoped for.
First of all, let’s just state the obvious: Tom Watson is pretty good! What a story, an inspiration and true gentleman of the game. It will be an honor to call him champion over the next year. I’m not sure you could select a finer person to represent the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and the 27,000 men and women professionals of our association.
It was an exciting finish; the final few holes were as intense as I can remember any championship on any level being, and it was only fitting that it was settled by a birdie in a playoff. Congratulations to all the players who teed it up here this week, to David Eger for his phenomenal final round to force the playoff and again to Tom Watson for earning his second Alfred S. Bourne Trophy.
I hope many of you had a chance to see me make another important presentation earlier in the day. It was to Sonny Skinner, who was the low PGA Club Professional in the field this week. Sonny played some great golf and is another tremendous friend who will represent The PGA in fine fashion.
These club professionals are not able to practice like the Tour players -- they have jobs running shops, teaching, pulling carts, dealing with payrolls, so many things other than working on their playing skills. But they find the time because they love it and they excel at it. Sonny Skinner and the 11 other PGA Club Professionals who made the cut this week should be extremely proud of their performance.
You will be able to read about the Championship, the playoff and Tom Watson’s win on PGA.com and in many other media outlets. What I hope you’ll hear more about is how tremendous Louisville and Valhalla Golf Club were to me, The PGA of America and to everyone associated with this championship. The crowds were amazing. Not just in number, though we had a great crowd all week, but the enthusiasm, the respect, the appreciation for the players, the etiquette and politeness – it was southern hospitality at its finest.
I also want to offer a special thank you to the 1,800 volunteers who gave of their time and resources to take part in this championship. Without them, this event could not happen. Whether it was some chilly temperatures on Thursday or some temps in the 90s on Sunday, every volunteer I met or saw was smiling, cordial and excited to play a part in this event.
I would personally thank each and every one of them if I could. I hope they get a chance to get this message. “Thank You. I hope your week was fantastic. Because of your efforts, ours definitely was.”
Another important note: this wasn’t just my first Senior PGA Championship as President, it was also the first Senior PGA Championship presented by our new partners at KitchenAid. Their sponsorship is tremendous, but even more, I have to make note of how well received their presence was by golf fans all week. Their “Brand Experience” set up near the clubhouse was one of the most popular stops on the entire course. This is an exciting partnership, one that is going to do great things for the Senior PGA Championship, The PGA of America and for the game of golf.
And perhaps most importantly, on behalf myself, my family, the members at Hillendale Country Club in Bethesda, Md., and the 27,000 men and women professionals that make up The PGA of America, I want to take a moment to remember all those who’ve paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy our freedoms in this country. It’s Memorial Day weekend and I know it’s an important time for families to spend time together. But let’s not forget families who have offered the ultimate sacrifice so that all of us can enjoy freedoms with our families. To those who have offered and paid so much, to their families and loved ones and to all those who are currently serving, we offer our heartfelt gratitude for all you do.
Thank you all for your support of this championship. I’ve enjoyed sharing my week with you. I hope you’ll all join me next month, in person or via PGA.com, when we get together at Hershey Resorts in Hershey, Pa., at the PGA Professional National Championship. Until then, you can follow me on Twitter at @AFWPGAPRO.