When it departs Tulsa, the PGA of America to leave a lasting legacy

By Jeff Babineau, PGA
Published on

The 104th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club is as much about looking back on rich tradition of the club and the championship as it is about looking out into the future.
Tuesday at Southern Hills offered a healthy dose of both. This is the fifth PGA Championship to be held at Southern Hills, a Perry Maxwell gem, and club’s roster of champions from its biggest championships through the years is an impressive one. Two-time major champion Dave Stockton, who was on the grounds Tuesday, won the 1970 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, followed by three winners who now reside in the World Golf Hall of Fame: Raymond Floyd (1982), Nick Price (1994) and Tiger Woods (2007). 
The PGA of America’s annual news conference on Tuesday packed in plenty of news. Among the highlights:
• The PGA has chosen Tulsa to add a new pillar to its expanding PGA REACH charitable foundation called “A Place to Play.” Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, said that programs to add players to the game need also help to open the door to play it, and keep it accessible. So in Tulsa, the PGA is pledging $250,000 and the city is contributing $1 million to be invested in public golf facilities across the city. 
PGA of America CEO, Seth Waugh
PGA of America CEO, Seth Waugh
“We're creating all these golfers through our other programs, but if there's no access, if there's not accessible, welcoming access, that's not going to do much good,” Waugh said. “So we added a leg called A Place to Play, which is meant to help public golf, municipal golf and public golf around the country, and we wanted to recognize that. ... This is our fifth time here, and so no better place for us to leave that legacy than Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Waugh said the idea was suggested by Nick Sidorakis, the general manager at Southern Hills. 
• The PGA Works Collegiate Championship, which started as the National Minority College Championship for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities  (HBCUs), will be played at Shoal Creek Club near Birmingham, Alabama in 2023. The PGA of America played a key role in the integration of Shoal Creek prior to its role as host of the PGA Championship in 1990. Waugh said bringing the PWCC there, given the club’s history years ago, will give the event a certain “elegance.”
“The membership has been incredibly excited about this,” Waugh said of Shoal Creek. “The idea is to not only continue to host a golf tournament, but continue to educate and offer minorities opportunities in the game of golf.  
“It’s an $85 billion industry, it’s got two million jobs, and we want it to look more like the rest of the world,” Waugh said. 
• PGA of America President Jim Richerson spent Monday at the PGA Hope Secretary’s Cup in nearby Broken Arrow. PGA HOPE – Helping Our Patriots Everywhere –  continues to help military veterans, helping them to transition back to life at home in a community setting built around learning and playing golf. 
“PGA HOPE, when you talk to those veterans about how golf really saved their life, how it brought them back into communities, is really pretty special,” Richerson said. 
PGA of America President, Jim Richerson
PGA of America President, Jim Richerson
• This week’s PGA Championship will feature 96 of the top 100 golfers from the Official World Golf Ranking, but for the first time since 2008, it will not have its defending champion in the field. Waugh addressed the absence at Southern Hills of Phil Mickelson, who set a record in winning the 2021 PGA, doing so shortly before his 51st birthday. Waugh wished to address the situation, calling it “the elephant in the room.” 
“Look, no one was more excited than us last year when Phil had his epic win,” Waugh said. “It's amazing. He's done something nobody else has ever done and win a major at 50. It was one of the great moments in golf, and we'll never sort of forget it. We certainly looked forward to him defending.
“He's not here. It's at his choice. He and I have had some conversations before, during, and after, and I can really say that on Friday his camp called and said he's not ready to play. Obviously, we respect that. We understand it. We wish nothing but the best for him and Amy.”
• Kerry Haigh, Chief Championships Officer for the PGA, was in charge of the setup for the two previous PGAs played at Southern Hills, in 1994 and 2007, and is excited about the test Southern Hills will present after an historic restoration was done by architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner a couple of years ago.
PGA of America CCO, Kerry Haigh
PGA of America CCO, Kerry Haigh
Several new tees have been added – the course extends to 7,556 yards – and with many trees removed, it has a far more open feel, which should lead to players hitting more drivers and 3-woods off the tee than in previous championships. Several holes are likely to use newly built tees that were not an option in the past. The most notable change from Hanse’s work would be at the par-4 seventh, where a short “4-iron and wedge” hole was transformed into a 489-yard best, with both the tee and green moved back significantly. 
Haigh: “That team together have produced what I think could be one of the greatest tests of golf in the country. I'm really excited to see it. The conditioning is unbelievable, May, creating the golf course -- the playing conditions here in May for warm season grasses, the fairways, the roughs, it's just immaculate. I could not be happier.”
• Waugh and many PGA of America staff members have moved into the organization’s new home in Frisco, Texas. The PGA already has begun to do PGA Professional workshops on the property, and two championship courses have been built. Frisco will have its national unveiling when it hosts the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2023. 
“It's our home. We think it could end up being somewhat of a commercial home and a destination home for golf in the country,” Waugh said. “We're excited about that. It's a lot of things that we've talked about, as you've seen from the beginning, a laboratory for golf, a Silicon Valley for golf, all sorts of things are possible there, and we're going to do everything we can with it.”
• Richerson was asked about a recent Golf Digest article that addressed the growing challenges long hours and work-life balance for club professionals that have been discouraging some good potential candidates to enter the business. 
“Some look at it and have looked at it for a long time as just a line item on your expense sheet, but if you put a golf professional in the right role with the right support, they're a huge return on the investment,” said Richerson, who represents 28,000 members of the PGA. 
“You get people that are excited about the game. You get them improving their game of golf. They're going to play more golf. I don't know a single person that enjoys the game of golf that doesn't play more when they're playing better. You want to play more golf. You need to get with your local PGA Professionals and they'll help you at whatever level you're at. We're seeing it here at the highest level.”