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July 27, 2016
Springfield, New Jersey
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you very much for joining us for our PGA Championship news conference. We are very excited that you chose to be with us for this very special week.
For those of you that don't know the usual suspects, from The PGA of America, meet PGA of America President, Derek Sprague, who is the Managing Director at Liberty National in Jersey City.
It's a home trip for Pete Bevacqua, the CEO of PGA of America, who is coming up on his fourth year at The PGA of America.
And 27-year veteran, Kerry Haigh, our Managing Director of Championships for The PGA of America.
Let's go ahead and get started. Derek, I know you're really excited to be here for the season's final major.
DEREK SPRAGUE: Thank you, Julius. PGA of America is very excited to be back here at Baltusrol. We were here in 2005 for Phil Mickelson's second major victory. That was a very dramatic finish and we are looking for more drama this week, which Kerry and the players will deliver.
Baltusrol has been just a wonderful host to The PGA of America. As you can tell, if you were here in 2005, things are more major out there. Bigger, grander, than they were 11 years ago. There's a person that's been involved with both of these, and that's the PGA Director of Golf, Doug Steffen. I had the pleasure of playing with Doug at Media Day a month ago, and to spend four hours with this PGA professional was just remarkable. Seemed like I had about a whole year of history in those four hours, telling me about all the great shots in golf that have been played on all the major championships here at Baltusrol that really defined the great game of golf and major championship golf.
Doug is slated to retire at the end of this year. He's been a consummate PGA professional, not only here at Baltusrol, but his just wonderful career. And Doug is a fine player in his own right. Doug shot a 65 here in 1978 during the New Jersey PGA Section Championship, so he can get it around. And we give him our best regards as he heads into retirement end of this year.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about my new section as relocated here from the northeast of New York PGA Section. I'm now a proud member of the New Jersey PGA Section. We're 500 strong right here in New Jersey and we have about 30 percent of those PGA professionals assisting Kerry and his team this week on the range and the putting green and helping the best players in the world get what they need to week to prepare for the major championship.
Speaking of the best players in the world, we have 97 out of the Top-100 players in the official world golf ranking this week competing. Hopefully that number will remain and nobody will get injured between now and the opening tee shot tomorrow.
But that really is a testament to the PGA Championship and the strong field that we always seem to attract here. And among those best players in the world, I'm also very proud of the fact that we have 20 of our club professionals that will be participating this week against the finest players in the world. We started out with 4,000 of our 28,000 PGA professionals to try to qualify to get here this week, and that was reduced to 312 that played in our National Championship at Turning Stone Resort & Casino outside of Syracuse in Verona, New York.
Our champion of that tournament was Rich Berberian, Jr. from Derry, New Hampshire. His father is also a PGA professional, so it's nice to see the heritage there and have Rich and the 19 other club professionals competing this week.
Got to tell you, last night, part of the tradition here of major championship week of the 98th PGA Championship is our past Champions Dinner. We had quite a few in attendance last evening, and it was so great to hear Jason Day go to the microphone after winning his first major last year at Whistling Straits, and how much winning the PGA Championship has meant to him and to his family personally. He feels he sort of has -- what is neat to hear Jason talk about is not that he has the monkey of winning a major off his back. It's he feels maybe there's even a little bit more pressure for him. He attained No. 1 in the world, and now living up to that major status performance week-in and week-out.
As I sat there last night on the terrace of beautiful Baltusrol clubhouse and looking out over the fourth hole and seeing just the great layout and the infrastructure that Kerry and his team have prepared, it just reminded me what the PGA Championship is all about. It's about having great past champions, having the strongest field in golf, played at one of the best courses in America, and I think that sums up our week here for the 98th PGA Championship.
JULIUS MASON: Derek spoke about Doug Steffen who happens to be joining us in the back row over here, along with the entire Executive Committee. Gentlemen, thank you very, very much.
Next up, let's hear from Pete Bevacqua.
PETE BEVACQUA: I'm from nearby Westchester County, grew up in this area and quite frankly grew up loving Baltusrol. I absolutely love this club and I love these golf courses, both the Upper and the Lower. These are two of my favorite golf courses in the world. And to be here with the PGA Championship as the organization's CEO for me is just a dream.
When you think about Baltusrol and the championship pedigree here, the amount of major championships, this is rarified air. There aren't many golf courses in this country, there aren't many golf courses in the world, that are in the company of Baltusrol when it comes to major championships. So we are just absolutely delighted to be here at this great Tillinghast designed golf course.
We have great partners in CBS and Turner who will bring the action to the entire world. We'll be in roughly 185 countries, have a reach of over 600 million households. We are going to continue to introduce technology into the broadcast, and we really think it's going to be a great way to showcase the strongest field in golf and one of the truly great major championship venues.
And for us at The PGA of America, it's such an exciting year. It's really an unprecedented year. We are celebrating our Centennial. We were founded over the river in Manhattan, and to be here in our 100th year and to think about this championship season we already have, it kicks off for us with the PGA Minority Collegiate Championship. We had a wonderful KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. You think about the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
To be here this week on this golf course, obviously the three of us are off to Rio for the Olympics in a short amount of time, and then we get to cap off this magical season with a home field Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. So it's really just a wonderful season of championship golf for our 28,000 PGA professionals.
Derek mentioned it, but I'd like to echo it. The relationship we have with the club, the relationship we have with Baltusrol, I think of Rick Jenkins, the General Chair; Doug Steffen, who has become such a great friend; and for me somebody who we've dealt with day in and day out for the better part of two years, the Chief Operating Officer of the club, Kevin Vitale, who is just the consummate professional, has given us the direction and the guidance that we need, has become a professional friend and a personal friend. We know we are in good hands when we are here at Baltusrol.
I'll kind of speak for the organization here, for Derek and Kerry, we can't wait to get back here.
JULIUS MASON: Kerry, we know how you feel about this golf facility. Why don't you let everybody in attendance know how you feel about it.
KERRY HAIGH: Sure. Thank you, Julius.
Good morning, everyone. I am truly excited to once again be back here at Baltusrol Golf Club and work with Mark Kuhns, the superintendent here at the facility. We worked together in 2005 and produced a great championship and a great champion, and our aim and goal for 2016 has been to do exactly the same thing.
Despite the two inches of rain on Monday night, we could not be happier with the overall conditioning of the golf course, how it's looking and how it's playing, and we feel it should provide a wonderful test of golf for the best players in the world, which is our aim at this and every PGA Championship that we have.
We want to be in the background. It is a golf course that is there for the players to play. Our aim, as it always is, to set the golf course up fairly but tough, allow the players to show their skills, hopefully make plenty of birdies, some eagles, bogeys, whatever, and excitement. We expect there will be hopefully a lot of roars in these trees and Mark has helped produce the playing surfaces that will allow those players to play their very best.
I am so excited for the Championship to come tomorrow. I wish it were tomorrow. But we have some weather possibilities; we do have a 30 percent chance of sunshine on Friday, so we're looking very positive on that.
With that, we're happy to take any questions.
JULIUS MASON: Kerry, the glass is always half-full, Haigh, ladies and gentlemen.
Q. I don't know if you have an answer for this, but if I'm not mistaken, when the U.S. Open was here the previous three times, a scoring record was either set or matched. And then when the PGA came here in August of '05, winning score was only 4-under and I think eight or nine guys were under par at the end of the week. Why do you think that was? Any relationship to time of year or what are your thoughts on that?
KERRY HAIGH: That's an interesting question, Doug. To be honest, the score is not of a concern for how we set it up. We pretty much set the golf course up. There will be tough hole locations. There will be some accessible hole locations.
The weather this time of year, certainly it's going to be hot and humid. But the best players in the world, hopefully we provide them a great opportunity to play their best. Really depends on the weather, how they perform. There's certainly nothing we're trying to do to effect it one way or the other, other than present the golf course in the best, fairest and most challenging way for the best players in the world, and hopefully they can perform.
Q. Just questions on the course setup. Will the tee ever be front put on the second hole? That's one question. No. 17, will you ever push it up the tee to make that more playable for a two-shot situation for the players? And the other thing I was going to ask you was on the fourth hole, how many times will the tee be used at the 167, 170-yard distance?
KERRY HAIGH: Okay. A few questions there. No. 2, the two short-ish par 4s, at this point we do not anticipate really pushing those tees forward on those. The golf course just sets up beautifully. They were designed as short par 4s. Based on yesterday's long drive contest, some players may almost be able to reach it from the tee we're playing.
No intention. That green is the most severe green on the golf course, the second hole. The strategy on that hole is to hit your second shot to the right part of that green to have a putt at a birdie. So probably don't anticipate doing that on 2.
Hole 4, there is some room there to move the tee forward. We'll see how it goes. That's what we decide each morning when we set it up, depending on the hole location.
On Hole 17, we did notify the players at registration and on their notice boards and their caddies, that 17 is a hole that we may push the tee forward at some point during the week, or we may not.
The only difference from '05 is on Hole 9, we are using both tees, both the left and the right tee, which we did not do so in 2005.
This golf course, you don't need to do anything with it. It is so good. It's just laid there. Just let the players play the golf course. We're not the story; it's the golf course and the players.
Q. We've spent months theorizing about what this five-week stretch was going to look like with two majors and the Olympics. Now that we are in the midst of it, how, if at all, do you feel like it's impacted this event and is there anything you wish you could have done differently regarding when this event was staged on the calendar?
PETE BEVACQUA: Well, as I've always said, we knew the weather at the end of July would be much cooler, so we've proven that (laughter) we missed that mark.
But when we thought about it, we knew it was going to be different. We knew the schedule was going to be condensed. But it's worked out well. It's absolutely worked out well. I think having a major championship in this part of the country at the end of July works and makes a lot of sense. If you're fortunate enough to be able to go on vacation, many people in this part of the country go on vacation in August, and we see that with the spectators, the number of spectators, the demand for ticket sales, the unbelievable demand we had for corporate hospitality.
I think it's worked well. It's been a stress on the entire golf world, but for good reason. I mean, the Olympics are important. We'll go off to Rio, we'll come back, we'll have the FedExCup and then of course we have The Ryder Cup. But make no mistake; it is something we are monitoring closely. It's something we are giving a lot of thought to and doing quite a few levels of analysis in terms of what would make sense for the PGA Championship going forward in an Olympic year.
Nothing's off the table. Nothing's been decided. But we are considering many options.
DEREK SPRAGUE: I think I would add, in talking to the past champions last evening, I think they sort of like it. I think they have adjusted their schedule. They are going to make the majors, and they sort of like to have that rhythm coming into the PGA Championship.
Obviously the ones that played well last week, or in The Open Championship a couple weeks ago, feel more positively about it. I didn't hear anybody say, oh, we're too tired or whatever. When you're playing well, you want to play more. Those folks are coming in revved up.
Q. Kerry, how much has the course changed or your philosophy changed since the 2005 setup?
KERRY HAIGH: As we've said, I think there's been some architectural changes. Obviously the pond on 18 was expanded for the drive zone on the left. On 10, the creek was brought next to the fairway and the fairway moved out a little bit on the left. A couple of fairway bunkers were added in the newer landing areas. But overall, the layout is the same as it was, basically the whole order, when it was first built.
Two new tees were built on 13 and 15, adding 20, 25 yards. But the golf course hasn't really changed, the layout, how it's going to play. Certainly the greens complexes haven't changed at all. So I do think that the players are probably fitter, stronger, and you know, if possible, work harder than then. But they worked hard then, as well. It's just a great venue.
Q. A philosophical question about the course again. 17 and 18 obviously present such a dynamic finish for here, unique to most majors. How do you approach that, and do you try to particularly -- obviously with the idea of perhaps using an up-tee on 17, is there some thing that you will be doing to try to make it more exciting, so to speak, as the Championship comes to its conclusion?
KERRY HAIGH: As you say, I think it's unique. It's the only course that we play a major championship on that finishes with two par 5s. So you know, yet the first four holes are really challenging, tough holes. That's the golf course. There's nothing we're going to do about that. It's unique to Baltusrol, but certainly you always know in the back of your minds, we have two par 5s to finish. Hopefully there's scoring opportunities.
But there's plenty of other scoring opportunities, too, out there. So you just use the golf course, the design, the architecture and I can't wait to start.
Q. So you don't do anything to kind of goose it a little bit, so to speak, on 17 and 18, to make it that much exciting at the end?
KERRY HAIGH: Goose it (laughter). We'll see how the hole locations go and the tee locations. That's all we do.
Q. Looking ahead to next year, for any of you, can you explain what went into the decision to go to Quail Hollow, especially it being a course that's never hosted a major before?
PETE BEVACQUA: Well, I would tell you that the decision was made in 2010. It's a strong golf course. It has an unbelievable track record in testing the best players in the world with a really active membership who loves the game.
I'll defer to Kerry on the merits of the golf course, but we are also very excited about the changes being made to the golf course. I know those changes were presented to Kerry and me at the same time, and I was looking to get a read in Kerry's face, because he's the expert. And to see his face light up about a good golf course being made even better, we think it's going to be a wonderful major championship test.
And Kerry, you probably have something to add.
KERRY HAIGH: No, I agree. It's a golf course that we know over the years, the club continue to want to make it the best golf course that it can be.
When you have a club that's so active and eager to improve their facilities, their golf course, to be able to host major championships, and a course that the vast majority of the players really enjoy playing that golf course. So why wouldn't we? It's in a market that loves golf, attends golf, supports golf, and as Pete said, it's a wonderful golf course. The changes are really exciting, and I think once we all see them completed here in the next couple of weeks, I can't wait to see them.
I was there about a month ago when Tom Fazio and his team were just sort of making the adjustments. We look forward to a spectacular championship, as well. But we want to focus on this week, too.
Q. Two questions for both sides of the table, starting with the men in green. Speaking of next year with the LGBT law, how does that affect your decision going there, and did the NBA's decision to pull the All-Star Game affect you one way or the other?
PETE BEVACQUA: As you know, we have been very vocal in our optician to HB2 on several occasions.
We are trying to do everything we can, as part of our strategic plan for our organization in golf, to make the game as inclusive as possible. We're not perfect. We're trying. We're trying to do things to make the game more inclusive, and we thought it was important that we voiced our opposition.
It's also to be noted, it's a private facility. So we intend to do everything we can within our power to make it a welcoming environment and an inclusive environment. We have every intention to having our restroom policy be like it is every year, where you use the restroom you identify with. That's our stance.
Quail Hollow has been terrific. The golf course is terrific. We made this decision well in advance of HB2, and we'll continue to let people know where we stand and what our mind-set is. And that's quite frankly what we intend to do.
Of course we took notice of the NBA's decision, and you know, we came out with a statement shortly thereafter. I know you're aware of those statements and we'll continue to be vocal about our opposition. And quite frankly, Doug, we really hope it changes.
Q. Far less exciting, but for Kerry, you're probably aware of this right now, but you have the strongest field in the history of the OWGR this week. What was interesting is your decision going to as deep as 120 in the World Ranking, what was the thinking going that deep, compared with going off what effectively is a PGA TOUR Money List and the idea that given the depth of fields over here on the TOUR, sometimes it's harder for guys lower on the points list to get into the Top-100 or 120 in the world. What was your thinking on the direction you went?
KERRY HAIGH: I think our committee meet and review invitations, really from Augusta all the way through to last Monday. We analyze all Money Lists, Japan, Australia, the World Rankings, The European Tour Race to Dubai Money List, and the PGA TOUR Money List.
Our criteria includes all of those, and we look at players that we think are deserving to get into the field. Certainly the World Ranking is one of the rankings we look at. There was no deliberate measure to look specifically at the World Rankings. We look at all three rankings as we go down to try to include, invite, if they are not already qualified, all the best players in the world. And we've been very fortunate to have what we think is the strongest field in the world for many years at the championship based on the Official World Golf Rankings.
Q. If HB2 isn't repealed, would you plan another golf event in North Carolina?
PETE BEVACQUA: As we said, we're opposed to it. We are going to stay opposed to it. We're going to do everything we can within our power to make this as inclusive a championship as possible. And we'll cross those bridges and deal with those hurdles when they come. We hope it changes.
We'll see how it goes next year. We think it's going to be and we know it's going to be a wonderful championship when you get to the site and when the best players in the world descend on that golf course and play a golf course that they will never have seen in terms of the changes that have been made.
And we'll continue to state our position on this. We want the game of golf to be as inclusive as possible. We can only control so much. We can't control the policies, the rules and the regulations around the country and municipalities and states. We can only do what we can do. And we'll try to make that PGA Championship like we do every PGA Championship enjoyable, inclusive, and shine a great light on our organization and the game of golf.
Q. With the rain predicted, what's the liability of this golf course as far as drainage? Is it exceptional? Is it subpar? How do you see it going in?
KERRY HAIGH: We are predicting sunshine, as I mentioned earlier.
As we saw on Monday evening, two inches of rain is a heck of a lot of rain. And a lot of that was because it had been so dry leading up to it; the course was certainly able to take that very well. And if we get more rain on Friday or any time during the championship rounds, we certainly hope and expect that the course will be able to take some more, but obviously we don't want too much more.
Q. Can you tell, is it still on the table that the PGA could be moved in Olympic years? Because it will always be a home site Ryder Cup match, as we plan it to be, unless they move the golf to the Winter Games. Do you see that as a possibility? Is it still on the table to have the PGA precede the Masters? And as a follow-up to that, is it still on the table for an international host site at some point in the PGA's future?
PETE BEVACQUA: I would say it's on the table in terms of should the date of the PGA Championship move in an Olympic year. We need to analyze that. We need to consider all options. This is a major championship. It's one of the most important events in sports. Certainly one of the most important events in golf. And we need to find a spot on the schedule that works, not just for the PGA Championship but for the golf schedule as a whole.
A rising tide lifts all ships and that's how we feel. We want the Olympics to succeed. We want the FedExCup to succeed and Tour events. We want The Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup to succeed. And we're going to have to jostle the schedule a little bit. I think everybody is aware of that. We have no conclusions. We have made no decisions, but yes, it's absolutely on our radar screen.
In terms of an international PGA Championship, we are committed to a global strategy at The PGA of America. But I would tell you, our emphasis right now, certainly as a staff person that reports into our officers and the Board, is what can we do for the benefit of our PGA members. What can we do in terms of employment opportunities and education opportunities, knowing that we have a great curriculum to train PGA professionals; how can we take that expertise abroad. Will a PGA Championship ever happen internationally? Who knows. Is it something that will happen in the immediate future? I would say no, it's certainly been placed on the back burner for the time being.
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, Kerry, Derek and Pete will be performing all the rest of this week. If you would like to speak with them later on, please tap us on the shoulder.
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