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Could PGA Championship, Ryder Cup Have a Permanent Host? Should They?

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Taking my colleague Ben Alberstadt’s post in a different direction, let’s talk about another aspect of this post by Ted Bishop, former President of the PGA. In it, he is essentially lobbying for Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, to become the annual host of the PGA Championship, as well as all Ryder Cup events played in the U.S..

Feel free to read Mr. Bishop’s post for detailed reasoning, but a brief summary is as follows:

  1. Valhalla is a massive facility that can easily accommodate throngs of fans, as well as corporate and merchandise tents and all the infrastructure associated with such things.
  2. The course also has an impressive resume of past champions and dramatic golf theater in its tournaments (I will resist latching on to the argument that Augusta National is “not as dramatic and challenging as Valhalla,” as that has already been debated).
  3. Valhalla is already owned by the PGA of America, who would love to enhance the value of its course.
  4. Louisville, KY, is adept at hosting major sporting events (i.e. the Kentucky Derby) and is a palatable destination for patrons and sponsors alike.
  5. With recent discussions about moving the PGA Championship to May, Louisville is about as far north as you could hold that tournament for agronomical reasons.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to some commentary. I would be remiss if I didn’t put forth the disclaimer that I have a unique history with Valhalla. I learned to play golf at their junior clinic in 1988, which was the year my dad joined the club. He is still a member there. I was raised in the Louisville metro area and currently only live about 1 hour east of the course. I know a lot of people at the course. I love Valhalla, plain and simple.

That being said, if I said I were wholeheartedly in favor of this change, I admit it would almost entirely be purely for selfish reasons. Obviously, I would love to have a major championship in my backyard every year. I thoroughly enjoy (and am in awe of) watching the best players in the world shred a golf course that I myself have played (and struggled mightily with) many times.

As a regular golf fan, there’s two sides to this. On one hand, it would be nice to have the familiarity that comes with having a tournament on the same course every year, à la The Masters. Golf fans wind up associating the course with the tournament and you build an emotional relationship with it over the years. Remember Louis Oosthuizen’s double eagle on No. 2 in the final round of The Masters in 2012? Remember Phil’s shot out of the pine straw on No. 13 in 2010? Who’s to say that couldn’t happen with Valhalla, even if it may not be on the same scale as Augusta National? After all, most will remember Tiger pointing his putt into the first playoff hole in 2000 and Azinger spraying champagne after ending the USA’s Ryder Cup drought in 2008.

On the other hand, when you make the decision to marry a tournament with a specific course, you obviously limit yourself in certain aspects. While Louisville is an easy drive from many populated areas such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Nashville, it’s not easy to bring your kids to the tournament if you live in Portland, for example, which one can argue makes it difficult to grow the game. The flipside to that, of course, is that you have the U.S. Open in June to rotate around the country and ensure a broader audience could be reached.

For now, I will have to agree with Mr. Nicklaus himself (also the course designer if you’re unaware) in saying it’s “an interesting concept.” What say you? Comment below.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Scott

    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I would not propose one course but maybe PGA should only be held on the far west Midwest or West coast to get prime time viewing? That way it can get the feel of being held in one location, get prime time viewing, and ease up on the East Coast bias golf has. If it was held in prime time (on the East Coast) every year, it may start developing an stronger identity.

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 7, 2017 at 6:06 am

    A) It’s impossible for major titles to carry the same aura;
    B) Attend a PGA and feel its vibe. Whoever “you” is will change her/his mind about it being weak or not at the same level;
    C) Exhibit A: Glen Abbey. Weak course that keeps great golfers from playing Canadian Open. Since PGA is a major, it would only be a few years before inevitable comparisons to TPC and Players Championship were made;
    D) They say “You can’t move the Masters” and “The US Open is the US Open for a reason.” USA have a stranglehold on major titles and perhaps its time to say “2018-US Open is a major. 2019-Canadian Open is a major. 2020-Australian Open is a major.” Rotating the national open status can’t be any more ludicrous than keeping the PGA or the Ryder Cup at one course;
    E) Exhibit B: Oak Hill. 36 holes-take that, Valhalla. East course being returned to its classic greatness. Do they know how to put on a tournament in Rochester? Huh-YUH!

    I could go through the alphabet, but you and I both know that the solution to this is to move majors and team events around as often as possible. Simply no defense in making golf even more exclusive, even if it is geographic.

    • Sam

      Aug 7, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      I agree with your conclusion, but I don’t agree with Glen Abbey, they get a good field for that tournament, and the main reason why it’s not better is that it’s after the British version of the US Open.

  3. Jacked_Loft

    Aug 6, 2017 at 11:54 am

    As the PGA is seen as the “weakest” major I believe that a fixed venue would reduce it further to being just another stop on the tour schedule. An earlier scheduling would effectively make the Open Championship the last major of the season, which would then be concluded in July. With only the FedEx playoffs left you would have created a situation where basically only limited field events are played after the Open. I don’t see this as positive for growth. Leave it when it’s scheduled but make a fixed 5 venue rota to increase the image and establish a “new”history for the event.

  4. Greg

    Aug 6, 2017 at 8:44 am

    The Ryder cup needs to move. That’s part of what makes it amazing. Every 4 years on our soil, different venues.

    Personally I think the PGA should have a set rota of 5 and never vary: Valhalla, Whistling Straights, Maybe Bethpage since they are camped there for a few years, somewhere south-central, somewhere west coast. This touches most of America when you can play there. Whistling Straights is another venue that has become well known with the PGA. For the southern central area, I would propose Southern Hills CC. I’m at a loss for where out west since the PGA really hasn’t been out there a ton.

    I think this gives them a nice consistent rota without throwing in other locations (like the USO and Open Champ), and allows you to build up familiarity with the courses without trying to copy the Masters/Players.

    My long standing on PGA has been they have to change the format somehow. That’s why it’s the weakest event, it feels like any other tournament. I think going stableford, setting up the course easy, and just having birdies and eagles galore and a low scoring (or in stableford’s case high scoring) affair. I want to see what happens when these guys have to keep firing from hole 1-72. Masters is about the history, USO is about being a grind, Open is about the weather, so make PGA about going low.

  5. NT

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:38 am

    Move the PGA to other countries. Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe. Make it a global game.

  6. Chris

    Aug 6, 2017 at 1:04 am

    No way they should make either a one course event. That said, Valhalla is one of my favorite PGA venues and it definitely would be fine with me if the make it the events featured course and give it the tournament every 5 years. 18 there is one of the best finishing holes in Championship golf and that was no more apparent than in the McIlroy Mickelson controversial basically a foursome finish.

  7. Tommy

    Aug 6, 2017 at 12:26 am

    This is a great idea. Everything about the present PGA is lacking…a total letdown that nobody looks forward to. It doesn’t even feel like a Major anymore. If it doesn’t work a planned, who says you can’t change it back to how it was? It might take ten years to build some cred though so they’ll have to be patient. Bottom line is that it just can’t be any worse than it is now. Do it!

  8. Woody

    Aug 5, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Drop the PGA and add the Players..or move the PGA to
    A different time of year. I do look at the PGA as the easiest to win out of all 4. I think that’s why it isn’t as prestigious as the others.

  9. Joe

    Aug 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Trying to match the feel of The Masters is a fruitless endeavor. Which is why the US Open and (British) Open have a Rota system, making sure to include particular courses in a cycle and having St. Andrew’s every 5 years.

    If you love having Valhalla as a more official site of the PGA. Then do what the others do. Make it the official venue every 3 to 5 years, but keep rotating the courses.

    Ryder Cup, since it changes continents every 2 years, is just a no-brainer to not have it at the same place.

  10. Hawkeye77

    Aug 5, 2017 at 8:43 am

    No surprise Crawford supports this “piece”. Nothing solid about it, lol. Peter basically ducks the entire issue, and no mention of historical significance of past venues for either event. Bigger LOL, create an environment like The Masters? That’s just silliness, and again no comprehension of the history/background/elements that make The Masters what it is. Come on now.

    Take a stand and make some intelligent arguments. Former Marines (and respect X 1000) should take these issues head on!

    • Peter Schmitt

      Aug 5, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Thanks for the comment. I think it’s safe to say it would be a pretty much unanimous consensus among golf fans that the PGA Championship doesn’t carry the same anywhere near the aura or mystique of the other three majors. I can absolutely see why the PGA would like to give their major a shot in the arm. Would this work? Who knows. Ultimately, what I was aiming at is to (a) put my personal bias out there as a disclaimer, and (b) present both sides of the coin. I could envision a scenario where this works and you start to build some pageantry around the PGA. That’s not to say that it would rise to the level of the Master’s, but it could elevate the PGA to some extent (who knows to what extent that might be). I could also see a scenario where the PGA ties its own hands behind their back and doesn’t achieve much of anything. Either way, I do think it’s safe to say the PGA is turning their wheels about how to improve their major. It could be interesting to see how that develops.

    • Adam Crawford

      Aug 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm

      Wow, calling me out in your comment. Nice to meet you too, friend.

  11. Moose

    Aug 5, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I do not really think of the PGA as a major. No one grows up dreaming of winning the PGA.

  12. BBD

    Aug 5, 2017 at 2:49 am

    Dumbest idea ever. Playing on different courses is what makes both those events somewhat more interesting. It would get really old real quick that it’s always on the same course. And nobody wants to take away the glory from the Masters

  13. Adam crawford

    Aug 4, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    I think it could really do the PGA some good. It suffers from fatigue at the end of the season, especially when there are Ryder Cups looming. I don’t know that a permenant home would totally cure it, but over the course of a decade it could really help. I also think Valhalla would be a great venue. May is a beautiful time in Kentucky. The Ryder Cup? Not quite on board with that being in one spot in the states. Solid idea and solid piece, Peter!

    • Sam

      Aug 7, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Kentucky is not a good idea, they should keep it in August, but hold it out west every year somewhere in California

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Opinion & Analysis

Bag Chatter: An Interview with Uther Supply

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Daniel Erdman of Uther Supply.

Tell us about Uther. How do you pronounce that? What are you all about? How did you start?

It’s actually pronounced “other.” We’ve gotten that question a lot and, to be honest, we’re kind of OK with it. We wanted to brand ourselves as unique, so we think it fits well. We want to create products that no one else creates. That could be towels in unique prints or some other golf goods outside of that. We’re targeting the customer that wants to be different as well…people who want to demonstrate their unique personalities.

Forgive me for being a little direct, but golf towels may not strike a lot of people as being something a lot of people would start a business with. Were you seeing a lack of something in the marketplace somehow? What prompted you to start this company selling golf towels?

It may not be conventional and I definitely recognize that. Some of my friends have laughed at me for starting a golf towel business. I guess it hit me when I was working at private clubs (I have worked at The Thornhill Club and Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto). When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together. Billy Horschel’s octopus-print pants at the 2013 US Open was something that always stuck out in my mind and in that moment when I was staring at all those bags, it all kind of came together in a way. I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.

What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy your products?

We’ve already addressed the fact that we offer different and bold prints, but that’s obviously the first thing that most customers will notice. Beyond that, though, we put a lot of attention to detail into our products. We went through 40 different suppliers to get things right. My grandparents had a really successful flooring mat company when I was growing up. Watching them run the family business gave me the bug at a very young age to start my own business. It also taught me how much quality matters and getting the right suppliers and materials. It was so much more difficult back then without the internet, but now, a quick google search just does so much of the legwork for you.

Uther Supply’s golf towel lineup

Something that I think is very interesting here is you’re very young at only 22 years old. A lot of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in their twenties as well. Tell me a little bit about what it took to start this company. Did you have to secure an investment? A lot of people shy away from starting a company for fear of the hill being too steep to climb, if you will. Since you’re in the process of climbing it, what’s that actually like?

It definitely was difficult. The only outside funding I got were some grants and loans from business accelerator programs. Those helped tremendously. I remember having to place a very large order at my supplier at the same time my one of my funding opportunities was being processed. That particular one only had like a 20 percent acceptance rate, and if I didn’t get it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to fund the order. The way everything happened to be timed, I had to I place my order before I heard back from my funding application to meet a deadline. It turned out I was accepted, so that was a relief, but it was definitely pretty stressful. You know, in the beginning, you’re working for months before you generate any income. You’re doing everything for the first time like sending stuff through customs, dealing with suppliers, collecting transactions, you name it. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way and when you have zero money coming in, the mistakes you make hurt so much more. You have no processes or systems in place. It’s something you need to accept for what it is and grind through it. Social media helped accelerate things quite a bit (including meeting my sales partner Luke through Instagram). Selling on Amazon and going to the PGA show last year gave us a boost as well. It’s hard to say what the hardest part is specifically. It’s just the grind in the beginning trying to get momentum behind it. Once you get over the hump, it’s really exciting and fun, but getting up to that point is definitely not easy.

It should also be mentioned that you’re based out of Canada. A lot of people would assume being in the Great White North would make the game of golf a challenging proposition. How long/short is your golf season in Ontario? How do you stay sharp over the Canadian winters? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to play golf when it’s far too cold for most of us? To what lengths will you go?

It can get interesting for sure. I first started golfing because of my hockey friends. Yes, a lot of us do play hockey up here. It was a natural transition for a lot of us to play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. However, if you do happen to get a golf itch in the winter, you will have to get creative. It’s pretty easy to go to just an indoor simulator to practice. Sometimes I would go to Golf Town (our version of Golf Galaxy) to pretend to demo clubs in order to practice my swing. That can get you by for a while, but it’s not the same as hitting an actual golf ball and watching it fly through the air, you know? So when you get to that point, there’s a nice indoor/outdoor range near me with covered, heated hitting bays. Our golf season is from like April through October, so that leaves a lot of time in between. Golf vacations become necessary sometimes.

Before starting Uther, you alluded to your experience working at golf courses. First off, you must have some good stories. No need to mention any names, but what’s your favorite story from that stage of life? Also, what was it like to go from working at a club to having to court those golf clubs to become your customer, stock your products, etc? Was that really easy or really difficult?

Well, I have a bunch of stories involving golf carts. Just in case the old golf directors read this, I won’t give too many details. Working at a course is great. You can’t get a better “office” than going to the course every day. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise on a dew-covered golf course, especially when you’re being paid. Some of my best memories were after tournaments where three of us guys would clean like 80 golf carts. We would all have fun and get to know each other. It didn’t really feel like work.

In both instances (working for a course and now selling to them), it doesn’t really feel so much like work. It does take a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel like drudgery, that’s for sure. The difference is that there’s a lot more behind the scenes work that I’m doing now. We recently did a towel for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in collaboration with State Apparel. It took us a lot of back and forth to get that product right, but once we did, we came up with a custom, one-off product that our customers really loved. And watching them react to it was incredible. Stuff like that really keeps you going.

Bo Links, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, holding custom towel developed with Uther Supply

This question is unabashedly inspired by (ahem…lifted from) one of Rick Shiels’ recent posts. (Giving credit where it’s due here). If you had to “Tin Cup” it (i.e. play a round of golf with only one club), what club would it be and how many extra strokes do you think it would take? So, if you were to play your home course, your normal score is what? And what would your “Tin Cup” score be, you think?

If I had to choose one club for a Tin Cup round, I think it would be a five iron. My home course (and the public golf course I worked for) is Richmond Hill Golf Club. It’s only like 6,000 yards, so I feel like I could totally get by with a five iron and get on any green in 3. I typically shoot like an 80-85. I don’t think I would be that far off the number honestly. I trust the five iron, but also, I know my course pretty well and I think that club would suit it nicely. Now that you ask, though, I feel like I’m dying to try it!

What tour pro would you most like to have a beer with? Not necessarily the guy you’d want to play golf with or pick his brain about the game. Who do you think is the most likeable guy on tour? Who would you most like to befriend, if you will?

I would definitely have to go with Rickie Fowler. He’s got a bold style for sure, but he owns it and I really dig that. I love that he congratulates the other guys on tour and is supportive of them when they win tournaments. He seems so humble. He’s also really adventurous. He’s into motocross. I’m not into motocross, but I love the adventurous spirit. He just seems like a really cool guy from what I can tell.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the PGA Merchandise Show is fast approaching (January 23-26, 2018 in Orlando, FL for those who don’t know). Will you be exhibiting? What are you most looking forward to? That question is, of course, about what steps you think Uther will take, but also, are you looking forward to anything specific from other manufacturers? What companies’ booths are you planning on going to?

We will definitely be at the show and we’re really looking forward to it. Come see us at booth 3988! I walked the show last year but wasn’t exhibiting, so I would go up to potential customers and pitch my products to them. That was a lot of work and it was quite stressful being out on a limb like that. We’ve been working on this year’s show since August and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. We’ve got some really cool stuff planned. You also get to meet so many people there, which is just a blast. As far as other stuff I’m looking forward to, Greyson Clothiers is definitely at the top of the list. Charlie’s story is so interesting and I just love their products.

Uther Supply plaid towel on the course

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you on website, social media, etc.

So, the big news is that we will be expanding beyond golf towels. We will be launching some gloves and hats that I’m really excited about. We have six different golf gloves as well as bucket and baseball hats we’ll be rolling out in some very fun prints and colors (because that’s what we do). Definitely a good idea to check out our website, which is www.uthersupply.com. The website has a link to sign up for our email list which will send out some discount codes from time to time. There will also be some exclusive and limited-edition products on the website at times too. @Uthersupply is our handle on all social media platforms. Business customers can reach us at contact@uthersupply.com to collaborate with us on custom products. We’d love to have people come see what we’re about!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tara Iti: A Golfer’s Paradise

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This trip couldn’t have started better. Tara Iti Golf Club is magic! No disrespect to the home of golf, but this course might be as special as it gets when it comes to playing links golf.

Catch Up: The Start of My Golf Adventure

Tara Iti is a masterpiece that opened late in 2015. It’s designed by the famous golf architect Tom Doak, and it’s located on a large piece of land on the North Island of New Zealand around 1.5 hours from Auckland. It’s well hidden from houses and traffic, so you can just focus on your game and the stunning property.

The course brings swift fairways and plenty of risk-reward opportunities, offering a bevy of challenging shots that you need to plan carefully in order to get close to the flag. I loved especially the shapes presented by the fairways and waste areas, which make it feel as though the entire course is seamlessly woven together. I also like the idea they’ve got here of playing the ball as it lies. No bunkers, just waste areas.

On a personal note, my match against Johan was halved. He played very well on the first nine while I did well on the back nine.

What’s key to success to Tara Iti is a polished short game in combination with the ability to hit the fairways. I found my favorite hole at No. 17, a strikingly beautiful short par-3 that pops up between the wild sand dunes. There are three iconic trees to the left with the sea and a beautiful island as a backdrop.

Up Next: Kauri Cliffs on the northern peak of New Zealand. It is said to be one of the most scenic courses in the world.

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Opinion & Analysis

Life as a left-handed golfer

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“My bad, forgot you were a lefty,” my cart partner says, driving to the wrong side of the ball for the third straight hole.

“All good. Let me just grab my wedge and putter and you can head over to your ball,” I say, realizing I left that wedge on No. 2.

“Too bad you can’t use one of mine!” my hilarious buddy jokes. And just like that, we’re off. The life as a lefty.

Saturday morning rounds usually start casually enough. Tees are thrown and partners drawn. As I approach the ball, my laser-like focus after a terrible range session is typically interrupted by everyone’s favorite knee-slapper.

“Did anyone ever tell you you stand on the wrong side of the ball?” ZING!

“Actually, I’m standing to the right of the ball if you really look at it,” a younger me once quipped, a joke that would confuse and embarrass all involved. And then, with the confidence of an awkward night at the improv, I dead block one that nestles next to a tree.

As we cruise down the rough, my chauffeur politely asks, “You pulled your drive, correct?”

“Yeah, missed left side,” I mumble, preferring not to get into that brain teaser.

Now, this ball may be perched to the right of the tree, giving me a lucky angle in. “Man, what a time to be left-handed, eh?” Or, to my chagrin, settled just to the left of it forcing me to play it sideways. “Ugh, what a tough break being left-handed, huh?”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, I don’t fault anyone for making these observations; even I think left-handed players look outrageous on the golf course. The most experienced golfer will still see a fellow lefty in the middle of their ensuing fairway and wonder, “Why is this guy hitting it toward us?”

We’ve been conditioned to think this way. I like to call it The Ugly Duckling Syndrome. Maybe someday, we too will turn into swans and have the beautiful swings that all right-handed golfers like to say we have (we don’t). The compliment usually comes in around No. 6 as he’s starting to get the hang of this cart thing and your wedge is still holes behind.

“You have a good swing there. You remind me of Phil Mickelson. I bet you are a big fan of his?”

Sure, why not. I also have a Mark Brunell jersey, Mike Vick fathead, and I exclusively watch James Harden play basketball.

Sarcasm aside, us lefties are a proud bunch and really do love playing with or seeing another lefty on the course. For many of us, it’s the only chance we have to try different equipment. We take full advantage.

Seeing another lefty at the club is like seeing a long-lost friend on Thanksgiving Eve. We might wave, give a head nod or take an air swing, but I promise you we are acknowledging each other. Have you ever been out on the lake and pulled off the friendly wave to a fellow boater? That’s being a lefty on the golf course.

Now, we like you righties; we know your charm. You provide us an endless supply of dad jokes and sometimes you have an original one. And when we finally have a second to go grab that wedge left on No. 2, we know you’ll return it with a smile. “Well, at least you knew I wasn’t going to keep this one, Mickelson!”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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