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August 9, 2017
Charlotte, North Carolina
JULIUS MASON: Why don't we hear briefly, quickly from the president of The PGA of America in Paul Levy, the CEO of The PGA of America in Pete Bevacqua, and the chief championships officer Kerry Haigh.
Paul, why don't you go ahead can kick it off, please.
PAUL LEVY: Thank you, Julius. Great to be here and we're thrilled to be here at Quail Hollow and Charlotte. Kind of hard to believe it's the first time a major has been played in Charlotte and we're glad it's a PGA Championship.
The wonderful people of Charlotte have really been gracious hosts. Everyone here at Quail Hollow, including the head golf professional Scott Davenport; and superintendent Keith Wood; their general manager, Tom DeLozier; hats off to the entire team for their hospitality and this great setting that we have.
Also, this is the largest section of The PGA of America. As many of you know, we have 41 sections that we use to govern our association and over 2,000 members reside in the Carolina Section, many of which will be volunteering this week, so we are happy that they are going to be with us.
Once again, it's great to say that the strongest field in golf will be here at the PGA Championship. 97 of the top 100 players will be playing this week and continues our trend for being the strongest field.
Last but not least, we always like to mention our 20 club professionals. It's great to have them here this week, the pride and joy of the 28,000 strong, the men and women who are out there every day teaching and playing the game. And we're glad to see them competing this week.
With that said, Pete?
PETE BEVACQUA: Thanks, Paul. As Paul said, Quail Hollow so far everything has been absolutely over the top. Can't thank the club, the membership, obviously Johnny Harris, Ralph Breeden, our general chairperson. Paul mentioned the head PGA professional Scott Davenport.
And Charlotte has just rolled out the red carpet. This has the makings to be a really wonderful championship, and we feel like we are on the cusp of doing that. Very excited about the championship round.
Starting tomorrow we have our great partners in Turner and CBS Sports. We'll have over 28 hours of live coverage between Turner and CBS. We'll each over 570 million households in over 200 countries and territories. Also we have a new partner in the BBC and we are doing some interesting things in Twitter and Facebook in terms of live streaming, so kind of really forwarding and moving ahead with our commitment to bring this championship to as many people as possible and in as many different formats as possible, so we are excited about all of that.
Just here on the eve of the championship, we will root for some good weather that Kerry will get more into. The golf course is in spectacular shape and we'll see what happens here the next four days.
KERRY HAIGH: Thanks, Pete and Paul, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'll certainly talk about what a wonderful golf course this is. Keith Wood, the superintendent, and his crew, have done what I think is a truly remarkable job over the last 16 months since the decision was made to make the changes, which I think everyone are familiar with.
The overall playing surfaces, the conditioning of those surfaces, is second to none. And his staff have done an unbelievable job.
Obviously the last 48 hours, we have had over an inch of rain and it's softened the golf course certainly more than we would want, and I think more than everybody would want. But golf is an outdoor sport and it is what it is.
As Pete said, a huge thank you to the club, and in particular, Johnny Harris and the club's commitment to making the golf course the very best it can be. All through our process, any suggestions that we have made, they have looked at and if they feel it is going to improve the golf course for the players and for their membership, then they have certainly considered it and we have made those changes.
So we can't wait. We are so excited for it to start tomorrow, hopefully with some good weather, and look forward to what we hope will be our greatest PGA Championship ever.
Q. Pete, I'm wondering, I know this tournament hasn't even started, but of course a lot of people are already speculating about when the PGA Championship could return to Charlotte. The earliest date you have is 2024. Can you talk about the process and how Charlotte might figure into the future?
PETE BEVACQUA: Sitting here today, when you talk about the fact that we've had record ticket sales, record corporate hospitality, that we have a membership that has embraced this championship, that you have someone that is truly a force of nature in that part of the world in Johnny Harris, and a golf course that our chief championships officer, Kerry Haigh, is just delighted with.
Operationally, we think the Championship just sets up well here at Quail Hollow. So we of course need to get through this week, but I would tell you, and I even said this yesterday, we can't wait to get back here. I think it's 100 percent in our plans to bring the PGA Championship back to Quail Hollow.
I spoke to some city and state officials yesterday. We'll go through the week; we'll regroup with Johnny Harris and Ralph Breeden and the membership, and at the appropriate time talk about next steps. But I think it's very safe to say that we very much want to come back.
Q. Back in '87 or 1991, when the Washington Redskins were playing an NFC Championship against the Atlanta Falcons, MC Hammer and some of his entourage were not only down on the field but went into the locker room at halftime and basically gave a pep talk to the Falcons playing music and rap. The NFL shortly thereafter decided not to have celebrities on the field or locker rooms. Similarly, the NBA had problems with Spike Lee getting too close and too involved in games, as well. I notice that we are starting to see celebrities creep into the competition at major championships. We see them walking inside the ropes and we see them on the practice range. At what point does that start to become a detraction or distraction from the actual competition?
PETE BEVACQUA: I would tell you and I would love to hear Kerry's thoughts on this, as well, but we have no problem in a limited circumstance with celebrities. We welcome celebrities. We want celebrities of all walks of life to be at the PGA Championship. Quite frankly, we want them to be a part of this great game of golf. We think more people like Justin Bieber and Steph Curry, who love this game and play this game and talk about this game; that's good for the growth of golf, and this game needs to grow. And quite frankly, people like that can help us grow it.
Would we ever let them impact the competition? Of course not. But if they were visiting a locker room of a friend that's playing in this event or walking inside the ropes with a friend who is playing in this event during a practice round, we're fine with that.
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, I would reiterate what Pete says, and certainly, ultimately, it's a major championship and it's up to the player. And our policy allows the player to bring their instructor or their manager or their friend/celebrity. We think that's, as Pete said, good for the game, good for golf and good for the player. If that's something the player wants, we allow it.
JULIUS MASON: You're just upset that Bieber didn't sign your hat. I saw that.
Q. Kerry, can you talk to us about some of the unique challenges and behind-the-scenes work that's had to be done to kind of not prepare for the rain, but kind of the contingency plans that keep people save and make sure that everything runs smoothly because of this unexpected weather?
KERRY HAIGH: Sure. Well, as I said earlier, golf is an outdoor sport and rain is part of what we have to deal with, and we have a lot of majors certainly in place, certainly in the planning stages, where the parking lots are located, how the buses get in and out; being asphalt and rock so that they can function in the case of rain.
And certainly on the golf course, it's 150, 170 acres of land. You can't obviously cover all the land, but areas overnight that had been pretty worn down, we actually floored another area, the main entrance, that was pretty won down, added some mulch, added some materials to help the spectators get through it. That is unfortunately common at any venue when it rains as much rain as we have had. But we like where we're at.
The great thing about this club is they have invested in so many cart paths and roadways through the golf course. Spectators can meander through the entire golf course on hard surface roads or paths, if they should choose to.
It is a great venue to be able to accommodate, even in the rain, and hopefully we don't have much more of it.
Q. Can you tell us what the biggest challenge was in bringing an event of this magnitude to Quail? Obviously it's Charlotte's first major and there were a lot of changes that had to be made to the course itself.
KERRY HAIGH: I'm not sure they were challenges. The great thing about the course and the club is that whatever they wanted to do or we wanted to do to accommodate and make it better for a major championship, they were willing and prepared to do so.
The idea of bringing the spectators in in a totally different way, walking in through the parking lot and the first experience is the 18th green. I'm not sure there's a better experience in any championship golf venue than the minute the spectators get in and see the 18th green. It is unbelievable.
But that's, again, the willingness of the club to do so and some creative, great imaginations to come up with that idea of how it should be done. Any event, you need the cooperation of the city, the state, the community, the members of the club and working together, you can come up with a lot of unique ideas to help the spectators' experience at a major championship.
Q. There will be a lot of people at home who are delighted that golf is back on the BBC. There has not been much golf on the BBC lately. Can you describe how that came about?
PETE BEVACQUA: We have a partnership in the international broadcast right space in IMG and it was working with IMG to find the best partner to broadcast this championship to the most amount of people possible, and the BBC just quickly fit that role. Obviously they have a long, storied history of televising and broadcasting golf, and we thought they were the perfect solution for this 2017 PGA Championship.
We're excited about what they will do with the broadcast and we think what's so great for us and our mission to serve our members and to grow the game and the PGA Championship being such a big part of that; we know that they will be able to bring this championship to so many people back in that region of the world, which is a critical region for the game of golf.
It is a one-year deal, and we will both re-evaluate the deal on the heels of this championship.
Q. Paul, I think I'll address this to you. If we are to be honest, general sporting fans, golf fans, when they look at the PGA Championship, they are very dismissive of the 20 club pros who are playing. From your position, what would you say or how would you explain the value of them being in the field?
PAUL BEVACQUA: I think one of the great things we saw yesterday with Pete and Jay Monahan is the great relationship between The PGA of America and the PGA TOUR, and I don't know if it's ever been more collaborative in working together for the good of the game.
I can tell you, going through The Ryder Cup process the last couple years and with The Ryder Cup committee and working together with those great players, that relationship and understanding of what our club professionals do to support and grow the game, and what the TOUR player does, I think that's never been stronger.
And those 20 professionals make a great statement for the game of golf in the industry. As you look at all these great players, they all started out working with a PGA club professional. So it's a platform for our association and the best 20 players in our association to show the world that they play the game at a high level. We have a history of several of them making the cut. And when it's all said and done, we think it's a great way to champion what The PGA of America golf professional does and the relationship with the TOUR.
Q. Why is it necessary for Quail Hollow to make changes to the course to host this major championship? And in your recollection, what's the last time that you hosted a PGA or Ryder Cup that you went to a venue and said, I don't need to suggest anything; this course is ready to host a major tomorrow?
KERRY HAIGH: That's a great question. I'll try to answer it and give you a quick story. We did not make the suggestions to make the changes. This is a club that had a master plan and a leader and an architect that they wanted to follow and improve. As I said earlier, their goal is to continually try and improve and make the golf course and the facility better.
Eighteen months ago, we got a call, Pete and I, from the club saying, We want to come back and show you a couple of things we have in mind. So come on down.
So they came down. I think Pete and I, in honesty, assumed it was maybe tweak a bunker or add a tee. But Mr. Harris and Tom Fazio came down and laid out these plans on the table and said, Well, we want to replace the grasses on the greens. And oh, by the way, while we want to do that, we want to build three new holes and a fourth new green on 11.
So after Pete and I fell down and got back into our chairs, we really challenged them extremely hard. Well, how are you going to do this? What's the time line? You know, we wanted the golf course, all 18 holes, to play the same, consistent.
So they sort of walked us through how they were going to get all the different contractors to do everything that was needed, and promised it would get done within 90 days. Because of their ability to get things done, we were comfortable to go along and say, yeah, we'll support it, and we agree with it. And yes, there was some risk. But the quality of Keith, the superintendent, and Johnny Harris and Quail Hollow as a club, we said, yeah, wouldn't it be great to showcase these improvements and additions to the golf course at our major championship.
So they did that, and not only did they do it; they did it in I think 89 days. Members were playing all 18 greens on the new holes. Again, it was a team collaboration and something that we were supportive of and are certainly very impressed with how it has come out. Could not be happier with the playing conditions.
Q. When is the last time you went to a PGA Championship or Ryder Cup site and they just left everything as is?
PETE BEVACQUA: When was the last? I think part of our process is, three, four years before, we always walk around the golf course with the superintendent, and in honesty, see what, if anything, we can do to bring out any features in the golf course that will make it more attractive, more challenging, more strategic and more enjoyable for the players and for the members to play.
Usually it's not to the extent that we did here, but it may be fairway mowing adjustments or rough cuts changes, occasionally a new tee. I would say most every course we go to we make suggestions. We don't always carry them out, but I think we want the championship to be the best it can be for the best players in the world, and we want them to be challenged and enjoy the experience of playing those golf courses.
So I think every course we do, we do in collaboration with a club to make such minor changes to make it hopefully a greater test, a greater experience, and hopefully shows for a greater PGA Championship this week.
Q. To follow up on the question about weather and looking ahead to the weekend forecast, is there a percentage in the forecast, a number that you look at, when it reaches that number or goes above it, says we are going to move the tee times up? Or is there also a number in terms of the number of miles that there's lightning within the golf course that prompts you to suspend play?
KERRY HAIGH: Absolutely. We have our weather team on site all week starting on Sunday afternoon, who monitor the weather, and we work very closely with Brad Nelson, who is here this week, basically monitoring the weather through every daylight hour, so absolutely.
Each case is different depending on the size of the cell, the size of the ^ weather, what speed it's moving and how far away it is. We do not try and generalize on that, but each case we certainly use our best judgment on what is an appropriate time to suspend play or not.
Obviously the care and the safety of spectators is utmost in our mind and we'll do so in all cases to try and allow enough time for spectators to get off the course and back to the shuttles and to safety.
Tee times, Thursday and Friday, obviously we're pretty much dawn till dusk. Saturday and Sunday, each case, again, we'll look at what the weather is calling for, and base any judgment on what time we should start and if we need to make any adjustments based on those forecasts. Just as we did last year at Baltusrol, we did some things that may be different but we'll do whatever we can do make our best efforts to finish.
But certainly we discuss with our partners what is best to make this the best championship it can be, and that's exactly what we do every year at our championship. Our aim is to try and finish on Sunday evening so that everybody, spectators, media and everybody, can see the culmination of our greatest championship here on Sunday night at 7:00. That's our goal and we'll do whatever we can to try and make that happen.
Q. After this kind of ambitious undertaking of remaking the course, how eager are you to get to tomorrow and kind of see how this course ends up playing?
KERRY HAIGH: Well, I can't wait. I wish it was today. And we have a dry day, as well, which is even better.
Every PGA Championship on Wednesday, when we come in here, I think everyone can't wait to start till tomorrow, including the players, the caddies and hopefully all of you. Absolutely, we are so excited to see it even more. So I'm sure the members of the club -- there's so many differences playing it in August than May with the grass types and the changes and how the golf course will play. All those things, I can't wait to see it. I wish it was tomorrow.
PETE BEVACQUA: Yeah, really nothing to add. I think Kerry answered it well. I think we are all full of anticipation and excitement and really want to get the championship underway. It can't start soon enough.
Q. What's the longest and shortest, the 8th and 14th, might play this week? And Pete, the fact that no one has ever completed the career Grand Slam at the PGA Championship, would you like to see it stay that way just to create a little bit of mystique?
KERRY HAIGH: The longest and shortest, I haven't calculated the exact yardage but obviously the longest would be pretty much from the back of the tee to the deepest hole location on each. And the shortest would be dependent, I think it's fair to say, the two par 3s, we would go up to the next tee, the second tee, on 6 and on 17.
Q. Specific to the 8th and 14th.
KERRY HAIGH: Again, just like any time we're setting up the golf course, we'll determine that each morning depending on the wind strength and direction and the hole location. It would be wrong of me to try and give a yardage that it's not going to be shorter than this or longer than this. It's hopefully what's appropriate to tempt the majority, if not all of the field, into going for it.
I think that's what we all like to see and what golfers enjoy when we're playing: Do I go for it or not; what do I do?
PETE BEVACQUA: To your question, the energy coming into this week with Jordan Spieth and what he's accomplished already in his career is amazing. Obviously his win at The Open Championship was nothing short of brilliant.
If he were to do that Sunday and complete the Grand Slam and be the youngest person in the history of golf to do it, it would be an amazing story of golf, certainly for the PGA Championship. The good news is that it's always going to be the PGA championship that Jordan will need to complete the Grand Slam whether, it's Sunday or a year from Sunday.
But really what we root for is we just want an unbelievably compelling leaderboard going into Sunday afternoon. We have the best players in the world here and we have the strongest field in golf, again, as Paul mentioned, and we just really root for a clustered leaderboard with the greatest players in the world come Sunday afternoon, that's my hope, and by 7:00 Sunday would be even better.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports