A Second Chance to Host the PGA Professional Championship
Two years after it was canceled due to COVID-19, the PGA Professional Championship returns to Omni Barton Creek in Austin, Texas
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the April 2022 edition of PGA Magazine.
It isn’t often that a five-star facility takes a mulligan and agrees to host a national championship twice in three years. It also isn’t often that a pandemic sweeps the world, wreaking havoc on people’s lives – not to mention golf championships.
Omni Barton Creek in Austin, Texas, was poised, primed and fully prepared to host the 2020 PGA Professional Championship on its immaculately manicured Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside courses. Then along came the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 national championship for PGA Professionals was postponed and ultimately canceled due to the health risks associated with COVID-19.
Now, two years later, Omni Barton Creek is back on the tee. The fabled Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside courses will roll out the green carpet for a field of 312 PGA Professionals representing all 41 PGA Sections in the 2022 PGA Professional Championship presented by Cadillac, Club Car and Rolex on April 17–20.
Excited for Second Chance
“It’s great to have a mulligan; and we’re even more excited and honored to have a second chance to host this national championship in 2022 after the 2020 event was canceled,” notes Mike Coleman, PGA Director of Golf Operations at Omni Barton Creek.
“You know, it might be a blessing in disguise for Barton Creek to host the PGA Professional Championship two years later, because we were facing some restrictions two years ago due to the pandemic. We were prepared to play without spectators, caddies and family members, and we were going to use golf cars.
“Now, we’re almost back to normal. There will be caddies, volunteers, a larger Golf Channel staff and all amenities at the hotel and resort will be open for families and players. We have a great partnership with the PGA of America and we’re thrilled to host – even if it’s two years later than originally planned.”
The field of PGA Professionals competing in the 2022 PGA Professional Championship are equally enthusiastic about getting a second chance to tour the highly challenging Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside courses at Barton Creek with the coveted Walter Hagen Cup, a first-place check of $60,000, exemptions into six PGA TOUR events and one of 20 invitations to the PGA Championship in May on the line in the 72-hole stroke play event. Competitors will play a round on each course, followed by the third and final rounds on the Fazio Foothills Course after the 36-hole cut to the low 90s and ties, then a 54-hole cut to the low 70s and ties.
Builds Strong Portfolio
Omni Barton Creek built its reputation for exemplary amenities and challenging golf courses by hosting the 2019 Women’s PGA Cup and PGA Cup, and the 2019 Senior PGA Professional Championship. Those highly successful events were scheduled to pave the way for the 2020 PGA Professional Championship, prior to it succumbing to the pandemic. But two years later, PGA Professionals from all corners of the country will get their chance to compete on Barton Creek’s best.
“THE PGA PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IS A ONE-OF-A-KIND TOURNAMENT WITH GREAT GOLF COURSES. IT PROVIDES US, AS PGA PROFESSIONALS, A CHANCE TO LIVE OUR DREAMS – WHETHER WE WIN OR JUST GET TO COMPETE IN IT.” — Rich Berberian Jr., PGA
“It’s two years later than we expected, but I’m looking forward to returning to Barton Creek after the positive experience we had in coming from behind to win the PGA Cup in 2019,” admits Alex Beach, the 2019 PGA Professional Champion who tied for sixth in last year’s PGA Professional Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
“The Fazio Foothills Course at Barton Creek is a tremendous venue for a national championship. It makes you hit a variety of shots, and it certainly challenges you every step of the way. “The PGA Professional Championship is the closest thing we have to a tour event. It’s difficult to win because of many factors. It requires great golf, patience, the ability to deal with nerves and TV cameras, and it’s always played on great golf courses. Barton Creek certainly fits that bill.”
Great PGA Cup Experiences
Ohioan Bob Sowards helped put Barton Creek’s Fazio Foothills course on the map as a national treasure with his dramatic pitch-in for eagle on the final hole of his Sunday singles match in the 2019 PGA Cup to carry the U.S. squad to victory over Great Britain-Ireland. Sowards and Beach helped the U.S. win eight of the 10 Sunday singles matches to register a 14-12, come-from-behind victory.
“Our PGA Cup experience at Barton Creek is something I’ll never forget. It was one of those once-in-a lifetime things,” admits Sowards, who remained at Barton Creek a week after the PGA Cup to compete in the Senior PGA Professional Championship, where he finished tied for eighth after a hot 67-66 start and milder 71-73 finish on the Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside courses.
“I think all of the U.S. PGA Cup Team members will have some positive vibes and positive memories going back to Barton Creek, when they come back for the PGA Professional Championship. It’s a great facility and I feel very comfortable on the courses. Being able to play the Senior PGA Professional Championship there the following week was an advantage in that I know which clubs to hit and where to hit it on several holes.”
Tough but Fair
Rich Berberian Jr., PGA Director of Instruction at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, and another member of the U.S. Men’s PGA Cup Team, knows that winning the PGA Professional Championship isn’t easy. He won the national championship in 2016 at Turning Stone in Verona, New York, and likes the way Omni Barton Creek sets up for the 2022 Championship.
“Barton Creek will be enjoyable for everyone. The resort is top-notch and probably the best total package among the PGA Professional Championship venues,” explains Berberian. “The walk is a difficult part of playing Barton Creek, but the elevation change and a little wind could also make the courses very tricky. As always, putting will be very important, especially since the greens at Barton Creek are very grainy and can be tricky to putt unless you develop some local knowledge in practice rounds.”
Berberian has developed tremendous respect for the courses on which the PGA Professional Championship is conducted each year, and considers it one of the most difficult tournaments in golf to win.
“The PGA Professional Championship is a one-of-a-kind tournament with great golf courses,” adds Berberian, who edged Texan Omar Uresti and Mark Brown to win the Championship in 2016, with Uresti turning the tables to win the title in 2017 at Sunriver Resort in Oregon. “It provides us, as PGA Professionals, a chance to live our dreams – whether we win or just get to compete in it.”
Scott Hebert, PGA Head Professional at Traverse City (Michigan) Golf & Country Club, became a strong advocate of Omni Barton Creek while winning the Senior PGA Professional Championship in October of 2019. Hebert fired a third round 63 and a closing 67 to rally for a four-stroke victory on the Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside courses.
Hebert, the 2008 PGA Professional Championship winner (at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia), also jumped into the history books as only the third PGA Professional to win the PGA Professional Championship and Senior Championship, joining Steve Schneiter (1995, 2016) and Sowards (2004, 2018) in completing the “career double.” He’s enthusiastic about returning to Barton Creek after turning into a birdie machine in the 2019 Senior PGA Professional Championship.
“Omni Barton Creek is a really cool property – interesting golf with great views, and I have some great memories from the Senior PGA Professional Championship there,” assures Hebert. “The Fazio Foothills Course is great for a national championship, with holes down the stretch that can really make for an interesting finish. There are many chances for birdie, but one or two flinches can make for some huge swings on the leaderboard. The winner will have a well-rounded game, tested in putting, driving and second shots. The PGA always does a great job of setting up our championships to not favor any particular type of player.”
Ashley Grier to Return
Another past competitor at Omni Barton Creek’s Fazio Foothills course is PGA Professional Ashley Grier, who competed in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup on the layout in 2019. The U.S. Team earned a 54-hole stroke play team triumph over teams from Australia, Great Britain-Ireland, Canada and Sweden.
Grier, a PGA Assistant Professional at Yinglings Golf Center in Hagerstown, Maryland, believes members of the U.S. Women’s and Men’s PGA Cup teams will have an advantage when it comes to course knowledge for the 2022 PGA Professional Championship at Omni Barton Creek.
“It’s always an advantage to have played a course ahead of time, and to have played it in a high-level event like the PGA Cup is even better,” says Grier. “I know where I can be aggressive and I know where par is a good score. I did not get a chance to play the Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course, but that will be a priority during practice rounds in April. I think your drives and short irons will be the key on the Fazio Foothills Course. If you can drive it well, you will have a lot of short irons in and you can attack the pins. You will have a lot of good looks at birdie.”
It’s mulligan time for Omni Barton Creek Resort when it hosts the 2022 PGA Professional Championship April 17–20. But it’s also a second chance – two years later than expected – for numerous PGA Professionals to rekindle their competitive fires on the Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside courses.