By Ken MacLeod
The PGA of America looked at more than 30 potential sites for the 2022 PGA Championship before narrowing the field to a select few and ultimately choosing Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.
That’s according to Kerry Haigh, Chief Championships Officer for the PGA of America, who spoke at length with Golf Oklahoma shortly after the change in venue was announced by the PGA of America on its Twitter feed at 3:30 p.m. CDT.
The event had been originally scheduled for Trump National at Bedminster, N.J., but was pulled after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capital Building. Former president Donald Trump has since been impeached for his role in inciting the riot.
Haigh said the PGA of America’s comfort level with Southern Hills, the fact it has staff on the ground working on the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, the advanced sponsorship sales and volunteer recruitment for that event and the welcome from the staff at Southern Hills all contributed to the decision.
“We know the venue really well,” Haigh said. “Many of us were there in 2007 (when Tiger Woods won the fourth PGA Championship held at Southern Hills.). We could take the drawings and plans for what we’re doing this year for the Senior and adapt and expand.
“It’s a terrific golf course and so supportive of what we’ve done. With the new grasses and new technology implemented in the great restoration by Gil Hanse, it will be just a wonderful test of golf and hopefully the best players in the world will really enjoy it.”
Southern Hills had been scheduled to host the PGA Championship in 2030. That date will now be open and Haigh said Southern Hills could ask to be considered for 2030 when the PGA looks to name a site, but the original 2030 contract was just changed to move up to 2022.
Haigh would not name any of the other courses that made it to the short list for consideration by the PGA Board of Directors, but said the list of courses interested included great venues from every part of the country. He did say that having the professional staff, particularly Bryan Karns, the director of the 2021 Senior PGA Championship, already embedded in the community was a strong factor. He said that despite the event being pulled from Bedminster for what amounted to political considerations, there were no qualms about bringing the event to what is considered a “red” state.
“We evaluated based on the strength of the championship venue and our ability to stage the championship,” Haigh said. “In no way did partisan politics or other considerations play a part.”
The PGA of America has hired Gil Hanse to design its main championship venue at its new home in Frisco, Texas, and is thrilled with the work he did at Southern Hills in restoring the 1936 Perry Maxwell design to closely resemble its original architect’s intent.
“It’s magnificent,” Haigh said. “The quality of Gil’s work is outstanding and Russ (Myers) is one of the best superintendents in the country. The course is just one great hole after the next, perfect greens, great bunkering. It will test the best players in the world. The last two PGAs there (1994 won by Nick Price and 2007 by Tiger Woods) were won by the best player in the world at that time. That it itself is a great reflection on the course.”