It’s been a dream ride for PGA Professional Ross Smith at Harbor Shores. The people he’s met and the memories he’s made in just 10 years, are almost too many to count.
“If you would have told me when I was growing up in Kentucky that I would be at a facility that hosted not only 1 but 4 major championships and also get to do all of the things I’ve been able to do at the tail end of my career, I would have told you that you were crazy,” said Smith.
That major championship is the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, the most historic and prestigious major championship in senior golf.
“Every year it’s a special time and it saddens me that we couldn’t host the Championship this year. Our local community, in Saint Joseph and Benton Harbor, take incredible pride in the Championship. We have 1,600 to 1,800 volunteers come out every two years to make it successful. They do whatever it takes and it’s phenomenal to see. I’ve been really fortunate to be around an event like this.”
He’s also been able to witness some incredible golf at Harbor Shores, and see how it’s challenged the top players on the PGA Tour Champions.
“The fact that the first two years [2012, ‘14] Roger Chapman and Colin Montgomerie shot 13-under … I thought the golf course was tougher than that. Then Rocco [Mediate] came in here in 2016 and shot 19-under, I am just floored at the level of expertise and how good these guys are. And then of course [Paul] Broadhurst came back in 2018 and shot 19-under again.”
Smith has served in various roles at Harbor Shores, including as the Director of Golf when Harbor Shores opened in 2010. He now serves as the Director of Instruction.
“When Jack Nicklaus came to the area, he had a blank slate for the golf course. I was there for the first time in the fall of 2007 to see the land and started working at Harbor Shores in 2009. It all culminated in 2010 when we had what Jeff Fettig [Whirlpool Corporation's former CEO and chairman of the board of directors] said and I agree with him, was the greatest course opening with [Jack] Nicklaus, [Arnold] Palmer, [Tom] Watson and [Johnny] Miller.”
Smith was front and center at that course opening event and witnessed the now infamous 100-foot putt from Jack Nicklaus. That day, Nicklaus educated Johnny Miller on how to properly hit a lengthy putt that broke sharply from left to right on the three-tiered 10th green at Harbor Shores. The few thousand spectators who were surrounding the green, including Smith, were left stunned.
“From the day it happened until right now, it’s by far the greatest thing I’ve ever witnessed in golf,” said Smith. “And it didn’t even count. Honestly, I almost get emotional thinking about it today.”
Harbor Shores will again host the Championship in 2022 and the dream ride will continue for Smith, who gets to do what he loves each and every day in Southwest Michigan.