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August 8, 2017
Charlotte, North Carolina
JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much for joining us today.
I'm very pleased to be joined by the CEO of The PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua, and the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Mr. Jay Monahan, who will discuss something that has been discussed in the media the past few weeks.
Let's go ahead and begin with you, Pete. There has been a lot of talk about the PGA Championship moving to May. Many of our friends in this room know that you have been analyzing this decision for quite some time. Is there anything that you can share with us today?
PETE BEVACQUA: Well, thanks, Julius, and thank you, Jay, for being here. It means a lot to us. And probably the worst-kept secret in golf is going to be announced today.
But we at The PGA of America have decided that starting in 2019 at Bethpage State Park in New York that we will move the date of the PGA Championship to May.
We are unbelievably excited about next year at Bellerive in 2018, which will be played in August, as our 100th PGA Championship.
But as we turn the page to our 101st PGA Championship, we will be moving it to May, and we are doing this primarily for three reasons: It's in the best interests of the PGA Championship. We feel it's in the best interests of the players who play in the PGA TOUR, the PGA Championship, around the world, and maybe most importantly for our organization, it makes the most sense to our members.
Such a large percentage of our members start and are active in their golf season in May and for an organization whose strategic mission is to grow this game, we feel May is a far more powerful date for us to contest our major championship.
JULIUS MASON: Jay, I guess the question has to be asked, how is that PLAYERS Championship going?
JAY MONAHAN: Thank you, Julius, and thank you, Pete. It's a great honor to be here at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
Quail Hollow, as you know, is the home of the Wells Fargo Championship, and Johnny Harris and his team are here and ready, and I know The PGA of America is ready. And again, it's an honor to be here.
Today is an exciting day. We are thrilled to announce that in 2019, THE PLAYERS Championship will move to the month of March. Coupled with the PGA Championship's move to May, these two significant changes we think will greatly enhance the professional golf calendar.
Our thanks to The PGA of America, and I thanked Pete, and I also want to thank Paul Levy, Suzy Whaley, Jim Richardson, the entire board of The PGA of America. Because this decision and partnerships allows us both to reach our long term objectives while bringing incredibly compelling golf to our fans around the world.
I want to stress that we expect these moves will help us to grow our fan base as we move forward with these changes, and we think that's very important and, as Pete said, in the best interests of this game.
JULIUS MASON: Pete, can you talk about the analysis The PGA of America went through?
PETE BEVACQUA: We felt it was important for us as on organization to seize this opportunity. We started these conversations about what would be the long term impact of golf in the Olympics on the PGA Championship. We are huge proponents of the Olympic movement in golf. We think it's wonderful for golf here and around the world.
With my role as CEO of The PGA of America and I'm proud to be the chairperson of the International Golf Federation. We support golf in the Olympics and love golf in the Olympics. Looking at it from our very PGA of America prism, what would be the impact of having to change the date every four years as golf stays in the Olympics on the PGA Championship; that started the process, and Jay was aware we were going through that analysis. The logic of announcing Harding Park in 2020 as a PGA Championship, afforded us the ability to change the date, maybe to February, March, August, we liked that.
And wind the clock back about a year where Jay and his team came to visit us at PGA of America headquarters and said, Hey, we know you're going through this process. If we would consider moving THE PLAYERS Championship back, do you think the organization would consider moving the PGA Championship to a May date.
And we said, Well, Jay, that's great information to know. Give us some time.
And we underwent a full blown analysis that quite frankly has taken the better part of eight to ten months, weighing the pros and cons of August versus May. August has worked wonderfully. It will work wonderfully this year and next year at Bellerive, the drama, the way Kerry Haigh sets everything up our golf courses; and we go to some of the best golf courses in the world.
We come back to the unavoidable reality that the landscape in August is changing, and it's changing because of the Olympics; it's changing because of contemplated alterations to the FedExCup that Jay can talk about more eloquently than I can.
And then we started to look at May. We said, you know, what the PGA Championship historically has been played in nine of 12 months, so we have not been wed to an August date. What would it mean to follow the Masters in terms of the major championship golf calendar and what would it mean for our membership to be able to talk about Get Golf Ready and PGA Junior League Golf and all the great Grow the Game initiatives that PGA of America professionals are tied to across the country in May toward the beginning of the golf season for such a large part of the country, as opposed to August.
We feel the television markets in general are stronger in May, and we are 100 percent confident that we can continue to go to the great golf courses where we have brought this championship. We spent a lot of time determining and analyzing that aspect of it.
And it opens up other parts of the country. It's more comfortable in the southeast. It's more comfortable in Florida. It's more comfortable in Texas. And this wasn't an easy decision. It certainly wasn't a decision we took lightly.
Our team made a presentation to our board of directors in March. We went back in June a couple of months ago and made the recommendation to Paul and Suzy and Jim and to the rest of our board of directors that we think that this is in the best interests of The PGA of America and the PGA Championship to make this move to position us for the next hundred years of the PGA Championship.
We also had the added benefit that it was good for golf. Made sense for us and made sense for the PGA TOUR, and we think it made sense for the overall golf calendar. And there becomes an unbelievably powerful and comfortable cadence with this change; when you think about THE PLAYERS Championship to the Masters to the PGA to the U.S. Open to The Open Championship to the FedExCup and the Playoffs, and ending the year in such a fashion, depending on what year it is, with The Ryder Cup or The Presidents Cup.
So we certainly think it's good for The PGA of America and the PGA Championship, but we are 100 percent comfortable it's good for the game, as well.
The one way that we can influence that is through our schedule and through our players and through the product that we put forward each week. And it was through that lens that we began this exercise a long while ago and we will continue to look at our schedule in that way.
But we think that this return to March for THE PLAYERS has been done for a number of reasons that will benefit virtually all of our constituents. THE PLAYERS Championship continues to grow in stature, regardless of its date. It's clearly one of the premiere events in all of golf; the best players in the world playing a dynamic and world class venue in TPC Sawgrass, the Stadium Course, an unmatched fan experience and the tremendous impact that we have had in our home community last year raising $8.5 million for charity and roughly $85 million since inception.
But when you change dates moving from May to March, you've got a different set of conditions that you have to address. And I think if you look back over the past several years, you've seen firsthand a number of the changes that we've made and I'll point out a few.
In recapping all of our fairways, regrassing our fairways, installing SubAir and improving our drainage systems and regrassing all of our greens, we are in a position to deliver the same firm and fast conditions in March that we have been delivering in May, and that's something we are going to hold ourselves accountable to because we want the standard of play to be at the same high level it is right now.
And we have made significant investments to the property and we are going to continue to do so. Again, I think the condition of the golf course is one of the primary factors and we are very comfortable with what we are going to be able to deliver in 2019.
I'd also say that by moving back to March, you see the sequence of events, having what is a Florida Swing or reverting back to what was a very strong portion of the schedule is something that's potentially appealing to us as we go down the road.
I think, as you look at these overall schedules, we are thrilled with the moves because they have really been done when you step back and you think about what's in the best interests of the game, as you heard Pete talk about, they have been done in close collaboration with The PGA of America. We used to be the same organization, roughly 50 years ago. Our strengthening partnership today is reflected in this announcement, and we expect that partnership to continue to grow as we go forward.
As Pete talked about in terms of seasonality, we are thrilled to promote PGA Junior Golf and excited to have the platform in March to help accelerate into our season and create some real energy off of that platform for our players.
But overall, to answer your question, Julius, there was a ton of analysis; the basis for that analysis is what's going to help us grow, and we think together, that's what we're announcing today.
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, the two most handsome men in the leadership of golf are happy to take questions from you now, but specifically about the news we talked about today, as specific information about the 2018 PGA Championship will be addressed tomorrow at the PGA Championship news conference at 11 o'clock.
Q. Obviously there's a lot of dominos now that have to fall for you. Can you address any of that at this time, maybe perhaps the FedExCup Playoffs moving up and concluding earlier?
JAY MONAHAN: I'd love to be able to address those, Bob, and I should have mentioned this up front, but today, we are making two announcements. Pete made the announcement on the PGA Championship, and we made the announcement on THE PLAYERS moving from May to March, respectively.
To your question, there are a number of dominos and there are a number of other decisions we need to make, and as you can imagine there's a fair amount of complexity within that and we have a number of constituents we have to work with.
When we have more specifics, we'll come back and make those announcements. We are just not far enough along in our process to be able to say definitively where we are.
But I think we had the same conversation at THE PLAYERS in May, and I said when we make that decision, we'll come forward and we will tell you. And here we are with an important stumbling block in that effort.
Q. The date in May, will it be the current week that THE PLAYERS Championship is played? And then also, regarding golf courses, you mentioned the areas of the country you open up. Do you have concerns, though, that other parts of the country now cannot host the PGA Championship?
PETE BEVACQUA: I would tell you with your first question, no, we would not play on the weekend of Mother's Day. We'll be playing after Mother's Day.
Really the PGA Championship will conclude on the weekend prior to Memorial Day weekend, which based on the calendar year can be either the third or the fourth week of May. More often than not, the third week of May.
We looked at the golf courses that we know we have signed agreements; so if you're thinking about sitting here today, when you talk about obviously Bellerive is not affected because that will continue in August.
But then you go Bethpage, Harding Park, Kiawah, Trump, Bedminster and Oak Hill, that's where we have our signed agreements. We are very comfortable the May date works for all of those locations. When you think about the major metropolitan New York area, the tri state area, we did a long analysis of the Bethpages and Baltusrols and other great home sites for the PGA Championship.
We actually feel and I would say more importantly, from our side, Kerry Haigh, but from those championship sites, the PGA professionals, the club, the superintendent, they feel the conditioning of the golf courses are actually better in late May than in the August months. I think the weather patterns have proven to be better, so we're excited by that.
In terms of other areas of the country, we are taking nothing off the table at this time. Weather patterns change, grasses become more resilient and we'll continue to have great conversations with those clubs and courses that we have historically gone to in all other regions on of the country.
Q. Looking at revamping the schedule, is there any talk of creating a bonafide off season for the players and Pete, is non U.S venue on the table at all?
JAY MONAHAN: I would say going back to the advent of the FedExCup, the wraparound season has elevated all of our events. I think when you look at 46 events over the course of the season, right now, I don't expect that to change.
I think that works very well for our product, and candidly, as a sport, a true international sport, being on all the time and showcasing the world's best players over that period of time, we think is very helpful.
I was thinking about this, because I read some comments recently, and you know, you look at the fact that there are 46 events, a lot of players will say: You're playing 25 weeks and that's 21 weeks you have off; that's five months of free time.
The benefit of having a steady rhythm of players, and we see how deep, how the depth is across the game, we think that serves the fan and serves going back to the fan base very well and that's reflected in the demand we have from sponsorship and tournaments and the support we get in all of the communities we play. At this point, I don't see that.
PETE BEVACQUA: And I would tell you from an international perspective, it's no secret that we have considered that in the past and have analyzed that. What's more important for our organization, when we put our strategic plan together with our board of directors, a global growth for The PGA of America is key to our success.
Whereas we talked initially about potentially having an international PGA Championship, our focus now in terms of global growth is squarely on education and employment. Our PGA of America professionals who are the best trained professionals in the world, how do we bring them overseas to help them grow this game and how do we bring them overseas to help teach people how to grow the game.
Will we ever do an international PGA Championship? I think the answer is not in the next ten years but it's something we will always consider because potentially at the right time for the organization, it could be an interesting move.
Q. This will have an impact on the PGA at home. Could you give us an idea of the reaction from Keith Pelley and how long your talks were with him and what your impression is of his feelings now that you've made this announcement?
PETE BEVACQUA: Sure, and I'll of course invite Jay to answer this, as well.
I would tell you I've had several conversations with Keith Pelley about this move, including one last night. I think Keith understands it and I think he's very positive about it. I've also had very positive conversations with our friends at Augusta National, with our friends at the R&A and with our friends at the USGA.
I think across the board, people understand it makes sense, not just for the PGA Championship but for the overall golf calendar, certainly here in the US and potentially around the globe, as well. But perhaps Jay is better positioned to answer that than I am.
JAY MONAHAN: I would just say that we are constantly having conversations with Keith, The European Tour and all of the international tours. As you know, we are partners in the International Federation of PGA Tours, and if I remember correctly, Keith several months ago came out and talked specifically about this potential move to the press and the options that that creates for him and potentially some of the challenges.
I think we're partners; at the same time, it's our job to put forward the best schedule possible. That's what we're doing here. I think that's what Keith is doing is and is going to continue to try and do and I think that's healthy for the overall game, I really do.
But I want to stress that we have got a really good working, open relationship, and I don't think this I don't think this announcement is a surprise to anybody. It's been well talked about for a long period of time.
Q. When THE PLAYERS previously was in March, it was two weeks before the Masters. Is that the intention in '19 going forward? And if, hypothetical, the FedExCup ends around Labor Day, does that open up any options for you in terms of movement of The Ryder Cup?
JAY MONAHAN: I think in terms of the impact to the schedule and the specifics of it, we're moving to March. We will announce our 2019 schedule obviously when we get into 2018 as we typically do. But the mid March time frame is exactly where we're targeting.
PETE BEVACQUA: And I would tell you, I think it does. I think it does open up the door to potentially talk about changing the date, not significantly, but a bit perhaps with The Ryder Cup down the road.
When you think about where we're going, with Whistling Straits, obviously Paris in 2018, Whistling Straits and then and then Bethpage State Park, it's a conversation we've have with Keith Pelley. It's a conversation we'll have our friends at the PGA GB&I, but a long winded way of saying, yes, that does open the door for that.
Q. What happens to the tournament that is currently in that week in March?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I guess I answered the question by not answering the question because I've said that we are not going to get into the specifics of anything other than the move that we're making.
And again if we had made all the decisions and everything was ready to go, that's what we would be announcing today but we're not there. We have more work to do.
We're excited about the potential for all of our tournaments. We're in active dialogue and discussion with all of our partners. It's complicated but we are going to get to it, and we are on a path that we are very comfortable with and excited about. When we have it, we'll answer it for all of you.
Q. Specifically, why 2019 instead of 2020 or 2021? Why do you choose that year to start that?
PETE BEVACQUA: It's a good question, Mark, and you're from Long Island, I think you know the power of Bethpage. But really it came down to, it works weather wise. We think the condition of Bethpage State Park, the condition of that Black Course year in and year out is better in late May than it is in August. So we feel comfortable and confident.
And we like the story. We like the narrative. It's the 101st PGA Championship and as we talked about it with our board, we said, if we're going to do it, let's do it. It's too late in the process to change Bellerive, whether it's ticket or hospitality sales. But the first realistic date we could change with this announcement was Bethpage and we're like, let's go ahead and do it. The State feels comfortable about it, Kerry Haigh feels comfortable about it, and we just think it's a great next chapter of the PGA Championship.
Q. Have you determined what kind of impact this has on the professional championship and the Senior PGA?
PETE BEVACQUA: Yeah, I'm glad you asked the question. I'm address both. In terms of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, that, at least for the next three years, will remain in its current time slot.
And I would tell you that we like the fact that the PGA Championship will be followed by the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. We think we can continue to serve that event, continue to draw attention to that event with the fact that our major championship is the week prior. We like that they will be back to back. We think there's great continuity and quite frankly, power in that.
As many of you in this room know, one of the true important elements of the PGA Championship, part of the DNA of the PGA Championship, is that we have 20 of our PGA of America club professionals playing it every year; 20 people that will be with us this year at Quail Hollow.
One of the key components of figuring this out and putting the pieces together is making sure that our PGA professional championship worked from date wise from a schedule point of view.
Kerry and his team took a long, hard look at that and starting in 2019, we will move the date of the PGA professional championship to roughly a month prior to the PGA Championship and it will be played in April.
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports