Celebrating the Intersection of Food, Golf and Tulsa
By Ken MacLeod
The intersection of world class golf, food and fun family entertainment is a given every time 156 of the world’s top professionals tee it up in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. The 2021 version May 25-30 in Tulsa is taking on added magnitude and meaning for several reasons.
For starters, the event is being held at historic Southern Hills Country Club, one of the world’s top venues and home to seven previous major championships (U.S. Open 1958, 1977 and 2001 and PGA Championships in 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2007), with its fifth PGA Championship scheduled in 2022. The allure of playing Southern Hills has helped the PGA of America attract one of its deepest fields featuring 10 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
For the first time since KitchenAid and the Senior PGA Championship became partners in 2011, the event is in the home city of one of Whirlpool Corporation’s nine U.S. factories (it is held every other year at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Mich., home to the headquarters of KitchenAid brand and parent company Whirlpool Corporation.) The Tulsa Whirlpool Corp. plant employs over 1,700 and makes more than two million freestanding and slide-in ranges annually, with 10,000 per day coming off the production line, one about every 22 seconds.
“The Tulsa Whirlpool Corporation plant is a big part of our investment in America, with 21,000 U.S. based employees, including 15,000 in our nine U.S. plants,” said Jeff Noel, vice president of communications and public affairs. “We know how proud our Tulsa plant is to make ranges for people all around North America, which is why we are thrilled to be bringing this memorable experience to them here in this great city.
Those hard-working Whirlpool Corp. employees attending this Championship are finding that their company goes the extra mile to make the event a showcase for not only golf fans but foodies, which Tulsa has in abundance.
“We’re super excited the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship has come to Tulsa. It’s the first time this Championship has been played so close to one of our plants, and we’ve truly enjoyed showing off Tulsa — a city we’re really proud of,” said Mellinda Devese, senior director of operations at the Tulsa Whirlpool Corp. plant. “As an import myself, I have found Tulsa to be so friendly and there are so many initiatives going on, from the Gathering Place to downtown.”
The KitchenAid Fairway Club, located near the 13th fairway, is the place to be this week. Top chefs from throughout Tulsa are cooking their specialties and demonstrating amazing KitchenAid products. Three putting greens are hosting contests where fans can attempt to sink a putt. A smoothie shoppe is located in the Fairway Club, as well as a second mobile shoppe near the seventh hole. A Maker’s Memories booth is offering fans a chance to record a short cooking or food anecdote of their own for social media. The Fairway Club also features a live painting of a community mural that will be dedicated to the Tulsa Whirlpool Corp. plant at the end of the Championship."
"Tulsa is a huge foodie town, and we have never had so many local chefs want to participate and highlight their particular specialties,” said Deb O’Connor, director of corporate reputation and community relations for Whirlpool Corp.
“Tulsa is an intersection of all kinds of food, from barbeque to Tex-Mex, Asian, fine dining and more,” said Noel. “That’s one of the great things about this event. It’s a celebration of the diversity of people and all of them coming together for this great Championship. That’s really at the heart of everything that KitchenAid stands for. And this is a chance for us to thank all the essential workers, hospitality workers and culinary workers. They helped us get through the pandemic.
”For all Tulsa-area golf fans, the KitchenAid showcase is a chance to celebrate products produced by a dynamic local company heavily involved in United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Up With Trees and other charitable organizations.
“We have a really solid group that works here,” Devese said. “Our motto is Tulsa Strong and our employees find ways to demonstrate that day in and day out.”