Moving from Valhalla to Harbor Shores has Phillips optimistic; Gibson to compete in LPGA Senior Championship

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By Ken MacLeod

When Tracy Phillips tees off at Harbor Shores in the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship at 1:13 Thursday in a group with 2019 winner Ken Tanigawa and Jonathan Kaye, he’ll be much more at ease than he was a week ago.

While the experience of playing in his first PGA Championship was exhilarating, the reality was that a soft 7,600-yard golf course is not the right venue for a 61-year-old whose tee shot carries 260 yards and, with no roll, is facing a second shot of nearly the same length on many of the longer par-4s.

Phillips shot rounds of 75-80 in the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. The Tulsa teaching professional had qualified for his first major championship by tying for eighth in the PGA Professional Championship at PGA Omni Resort in Frisco, Texas.  He said the experience overall was wonderful, but doesn’t think he’ll try it again.

“I’m glad I got to do it but once was probably enough,” Phillips said. “I’ll leave it to the young guys. It’s just too much golf course.”

Playing in more senior majors is another story, beginning Thursday. This will be his fourth Senior PGA Championship and he will again try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open. The last time the event was at Harbor Shores in 2022 Phillips finished tied for 17th and was the low PGA Professional.

LOUISVILLE, KY – MAY 17: Tracy Phillips reads his putt on the 15th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/PGA of America)

Playing with Ernie Els in the third round in 2022, Phillips made an incredible recovery shot from a marshy lie surrounded by tall weeds to save par that Els later called one of the best shots he had ever witnessed.

Harbor Shores will play at around 6,850 yards. The longest par-4 is the 14th at a maximum of 450 yards, meaning Phillips won’t have to be pulling head covers off for his second shots on nearly every par-4 as he did a week ago.

LOUISVILLE, KY – MAY 17: Tracy Phillips on the 14th hole putting green during the second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/PGA of America)

“I’m driving it well and feel really good about my game,” Philliips said. “Last week it’s not that I played that badly. On the 17th hole I couldn’t even reach the fairway. Obviously I feel like I could have made more putts and gotten up and down a few more times. But this week I feel like I can compete.”

This is likely the last year for the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores near the home of Whirlpool as it is also the final year of the title sponsorship of Kitchenaid. The Senior PGA Championship was held at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa in 2021 as part of its agreement to host the 2030 PGA Championship, an event that got moved up to 2022 when the PGA of America pulled its championship  from Trump Bedminster and moved it to Southern Hills. Now the PGA of America is interested in returning to Southern Hills as early as 2032, which could be announced as soon as this summer.

LOUISVILLE, KY – MAY 16: Denny McCarthy and Tracy Phillips pose together on the first hole tee box during the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. Phillips won the PGA Junior Championship in 1980 and McCarthy won it 30 years later in 2010. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)

Other players with Oklahoma ties in the field include:

  • Matt Gogel who grew up in Tulsa and won the 1990 OGA State Amateur Championship at Meadowbrook Country Club.
  • Billy Mayfair, who won the 1995 TOUR Championship at Southern Hills Country Club, is married to the daughter of Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame 2021 inductee Art Proctor and has expressed interest in bringing a PGA Tour Champions event to the state.
  • Todd Hamilton, the University of Oklahoma golfer who won the 2004 Open Championship at Royal Troon and is now an assistant coach to his former college coach Gregg Grost at Norman High School.
  • Former Sooner and current Arkansas resident Glen Day.
Janice Gibson

Phillips is not the only Oklahoma or Tulsan teeing it up in a senior major this week. Janice Gibson, longtime executive director of the First Tee of Tulsa but a 13-year LPGA Tour veteran before that, is competing in the 2024 LPGA Senior Championship Thursday through Saturday at Copper Rock Golf Course in Hurricane, Utah.

Gibson tees off at 10:40 a.m. in a group with Christie Quinn and Yvonne Cox-Holmes. Some of the big names in the field include Juli Inkster, Laura Davies, Hollis Stacy, Cristie Kerr and many other legends of the game.

See the complete pairings sheet and live scoring here.

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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source