After a 25-year wait, PGA Golf Club ready to host its first PGA Member ‘Major’
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Since its debut 25 years ago, PGA Golf Club has hosted every significant PGA of America Member Championship—except one.
The Port St. Lucie-based club, which has been a winter haven for many of the country’s finest players, has been the site of 24 consecutive National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championships, 12 Senior PGA Professional Championships and the 2003 PGA Cup.
This week, it will host another significant event in the PGA Professional Championship presented by Cadillac, Club Car and Rolex. The largest all-professional national championship, with a 312-player field, will be held Sunday, April 25, through Wednesday, April 28. Golf Channel will carry 12 hours of live coverage.
The Championship will be contested over the Tom Fazio-designed Wanamaker and Ryder Courses. Players representing 44 states and all 41 PGA Sections will compete for a total purse of $675,000.
“The PGA Professional Championship is our members’ crown jewel event and it’s fitting that PGA Golf Club, which was built to host championships, is in the national spotlight,” said PGA President Jim Richerson. “We expect to see great golf, but it’s also a week to showcase players from around the country through coverage on the Golf Channel. This talented field also shines as leaders at their respective facilities and as outstanding representatives of our Association.”
It’s been a two-year wait to resume the chase for the crystal Walter Hagen Cup. Last year, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the Championship, scheduled for Barton Creek Country Club in Austin, Texas. That means Alex Beach of Stamford, Connecticut, remains the defending Champion after his run to a title in 2019 at Belfair in Bluffton, South Carolina. That year, Beach also captured the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship at PGA Golf Club.
“I’m the same guy, and they can’t take that away,” joked Beach, one of 14 past Champions in the field. “I have been going to PGA Golf Club for the better part of 10 years, dating back to playing in the Jones Cup. There are no secrets going into this event. It is nice to play a place we are all familiar with. It will be nice to see all my friends and colleagues again.”
Jeremy Wiernasz, PGA General Manager and Director of Golf, has served at the PGA Village facility since 2013.
“We are completing what we call the ‘Grand Slam’ of PGA Member Championships,” said Wiernasz. “It’s a huge milestone for us. This is our chance to showcase what we believe is an exceptional product. Our team works extremely hard every day to provide that tournament-ready atmosphere every day, and now we have the chance to show it (via Golf Channel) around the world.”
PGA Golf Club is home to three decorated courses designed by Fazio and Pete Dye. The Wanamaker and Ryder Courses will be used during the Championship’s first two rounds, while the Wanamaker will serve as the stage for the final two rounds.
The Wanamaker Course will play at par-72 and measure 7,088 yards for men and 6,022 yards for women. The par-71 Ryder Course will play to 6,860 yards for men; 5,733 yards for women.
Tending to the needs of 312 players at PGA Golf Club won’t be difficult for its staff, said Wiernasz.
“We’re used to averaging between 500 to 600 players a day --- and that’s between three courses (including the Dye Course) and one clubhouse,” said Wiernasz. “That’s a normal day for us. We’re not shy, worried or afraid of hosting more than 300 for this Championship.”
The host South Florida PGA Section will have 16 representatives in a field that also includes five women PGA Members: Alexandra Braga of Denver, Colorado; Joanna Coe of Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland; Dr. Alison Curdt of Reseda, California; Ashley Grier of Hagerstown, Pennsylvania; and Brittany Kelly of Fishers, Indiana.
It will be the third Championship for Grier, the 2020 Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year and an Assistant PGA Professional at Overbrook Golf Club in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Braga, Coe, Curdt and Kelly are making their second appearances each.
Coe, the PGA Director of Instruction at Baltimore Country Club, was the inaugural Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year in 2019. She also earned an exemption as a member of the victorious 2019 U.S. Women’s PGA Cup Team, as did Curdt, Grier and Kelly.
Perhaps no player in the Championship field knows PGA Golf Club better than 52-year-old Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, the 2004 Champion and two-time Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year. He owns more than 20 titles in a variety of events at PGA Golf Club, including the 2018 Senior PGA Professional Championship when he holed out for eagle on the 16th hole of the Wanamaker Course to stride to a two-stroke victory.
“For me, It’s being comfortable on the courses,” said Sowards, the PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio. “I’m excited to go down there because I know the courses and they fit my game. I’ve played there so much, I know where to hit it and I’ve pretty much hit it everywhere you can hit it. I know my game plan and it’s a matter of executing it. I know the greens will be faster, but the wind is the deciding factor - you could have 6- or 7-under win it or it could be 16-under.”
The Championship field will have a 36-hole cut Monday to the low 90 scorers and ties, and a 54-hole cut Tuesday to the low 70 scorers and ties. The low 20 scorers after Wednesday’s final round earn a berth in the 2021 PGA Championship, May 20-23, at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.