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August 8, 2018

PGA Championship News Conference

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm the PGA of America's Julius Mason. I'd like to thank you for joining us this week in St. Louis for the 100th PGA Championship. Before the best in the world tee off tomorrow morning at 6:50 a.m., we want to make sure you get quality time with the leadership of our association.

As it relates to this PGA Championship, we have the CEO of PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua, and the Chief Championships Officer of the PGA of America, Mr. Kerry Haigh joining us.

Pete, let's go ahead and begin with you. While this is a special week for the PGA of America with the playing of the PGA Championship, this week has some extra meaning, doesn't it, because it's our 100th?

PETE BEVACQUA: Yeah, it's amazing to think this is the 100th PGA Championship, to be here at Bellerive and St. Louis, just the reception we've already received from this community has been really off the charts. I know we had record breaking attendance on Monday. The level of support from not only the club, but the city of St. Louis, has been amazing.

Julius, I think about it, 100 years, I was lucky enough, when I lived back in New York, to be a member at Siwanoy Country Club for years. At the 18th hole at Siwanoy, they have this rock with the last few rounds, the brackets of the first PGA Championship. So you think 100 years later we're here at Bellerive, it is really special. It's amazing.

And I think it was Rory who said it yesterday, to celebrate the centennial of any event, any championship is really a key moment in its history. So now we have to root for continued good weather, and a wonderful leaderboard and it should be a wonderful championship.

THE MODERATOR: Pete, while we're all happy to celebrate this 100th PGA Championship and the next 100 years, this looks like it might be your final championship as CEO of PGA of America?

PETE BEVACQUA: It's bitter sweet in that regard. The past roughly six years at PGA of America have been wonderful. As you referenced, Julius, and as many of you know, I'll be moving on to NBC Sports. But what made that decision, at least a little bit easier for me, is the fact that I know I'll still be so involved with golf and still so involved with the PGA of America, such a wonderful organization, the friends I've made, like Kerry, who I absolutely think the world of, my fellow staff, the board, the officers. So it's a strange week walking around and thinking that, in my role as CEO, this will be my last PGA Championship, but it certainly won't be my last PGA Championship. This is a championship I'll be at year in and year out because it has a special place in my heart, and it's special for the game of golf.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Pete. Kerry, you come to St. Louis with a really unique perspective. You were here in 1992, setting up this championship golf course when Nick Price won back then. Tell us what challenges, in your mind, you think the greatest golfers in the world will face on Thursday through Sunday.

KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, well, thanks, Julius, but maybe before I talk about '92, I would just, I guess publicly, like to thank Pete on behalf of our staff, our officers, our board, and our PGA section and our 29,000 PGA members for everything he's done for the PGA of America and our association. He's been a great leader. I for one am going to miss him when he leaves, wish him the best of luck, but I know a lot of people are very proud of what he's done and what he will do in the future.

With regards to '92, as anyone here would remember, we actually had rain jackets, and the temperature was in the 70s and the 50s overnight, which I'm not sure how that happened and it's probably never happened again, but they were great memories.

This is the 100th PGA Championship, and personally I'm honored to be a part of the 100th PGA Championship, as are all of our staff. We think it's -- there's only one time that the 100th PGA Championship will ever be played, and that is here this week, and it is very special for us. I'm certainly proud of what has been done by our onsite staff led by Barry Deach. And for those of you who may not have the opportunity, I would certainly say come down that main entranceway because, without a doubt, it is the most spectacular entrance to a golf championship, major championship that I have ever walked down. It took three months to build, but, boy, it is -- seeing 100 PGA champions all lifted there, pictures of them, it is pretty special place.

The golf course, Carlos Arraya, what a superintendent. As many of you know, growing grass in St. Louis in August is pretty challenging with bentgrass. Certainly, the cool season grasses are absolutely -- the warm season grasses are absolutely perfect. The zoysia, the rough is good, the rough is tough. The greens, they are championship speed today. We are supremely happy where they are. As you know, we notified the players we wanted to build up slowly to getting them to where we need, knowing that Tuesday or certainly Monday was almost 100 degrees temperature with high humidity followed by yesterday, an inch and a half of rain. And that is sort of how growing grass in the Midwest is.

So to prepare the grass for just five days rather than seven or eight days, we felt was the most prudent way to go, and today they're rolling just beautifully, and my hat's off to Carlos Arraya and his team and the 100 or so volunteers that have come in to help him this week and prepare the golf course.

Certainly, the rain has soften things up, but I look at that as a very positive because I think we could have one of the most exciting PGA Championships ever played. If you put 98 of the top 100 golfers in the world on a beautifully manicured golf course with soft greens and little or no wind, I certainly hope and expect we'll see a lot of birdies, and because the community have rallied to support our championship, we sold out. There's no more space to come. I believe the noise and the energy that will feed off the exciting play on this golf course could be -- make for the 100th being our best PGA Championship ever.

So I can't tell you how excited I am to start tomorrow. It's been a tough week, a tough season. The members here at Bellerive, as I say, every time the temperature got a certain temperature, they literally gave up their greens and played on temporary greens, and that is a sacrifice not many people know about or think about, but we're honored that they were so helpful, so supportive of our championship.

The strongest field we've talked about, 109 of 111 in the world, and certainly PGA Reach was one of the items that were formulated here and one of the reasons, part of the decision making for us to come here. And as you saw, and I think interviewed yesterday with Ozzie Smith, what a great ambassador for that program, not only through the Gateway PGA Section, it's now expanded to our other PGA sections throughout the country.

So all combined, the community of St. Louis, Bellerive Country Club, the membership -- we can't wait for it to start, and we hope this is going to be the greatest week of PGA Championship golf ever.

THE MODERATOR: Kerry, Pete, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to take some questions if you might have any. If you have a question, raise your hand high. We'll get you a wireless mic, and we'd love to hear from you. Back over here, please.

Q. Gentlemen, you've talked about the response of the St. Louis community. How does a community like this one get into more of a rotation than every 25, 26 years?
KERRY HAIGH: Well, I would say, firstly -- and I don't speak on behalf of the club, but we want a club that wants us to come back. So most clubs do want to see how the current championship works out. As I've said, there's a heck of a lot of disruption for the membership. We've been building here for three, almost four months, and it will be two or three months before we take everything off. So any club, any membership need to look through that, talk through it, and see if they want to do it again, and if so, how long before they want to do it again.

But certainly, if there is an interest, as we do with all our venues, if there's an interest, we'd love to talk, as we do with many great venues.

Q. Pete, congratulations on your new position. When you look back at your six years with the PGA of America, what would you say you're most proud of, and what has been your biggest challenge?
PETE BEVACQUA: I would say I'm most proud of the team we have at the headquarters of the PGA of America, many of which, like Kerry, was there long before I got into town. Some of those people are new. And really, I think -- and it's a work in progress, but bringing the organization, I would hope, closer to the membership. You know, I've said it before, and I've said it publicly, I think one of the things I noticed when I took over at CEO is it was a bit of a hybrid organization with a sports business on one side and a membership-based organization on the other and obviously, a sports business revolving around the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, some of our other major championships.

And then our membership, which is really what the organization is about, with education and employment and player development. And really, I think, my role internally was working with the staff and saying, you know, there's no mystery in what we're doing. Whether you're in the membership side, the business side, whether you're Kerry Haigh or you're in the finance department, we share these common goals of serving the members and growing the game, and I think it's just trying to advance that mission. And, again, that's never complete. We're certainly not doing that perfectly, but I think we're putting a lot of effort and a lot of resources into that.

When you think about our career and employment division, how that's grown, how we've tried to utilize more of the revenue that we earn from our championships and put that back into our 41 sections. So I think we've made some nice steps in that regard. The biggest challenge is, I think, the challenge that everyone in golf shares, which is how do you grow this game? How do you make this game more accessible and more diverse? How do you bring more women into the game? How do you bring more minorities into the game? Because I think we would all agree, or most of us would agree, that the face of this game has to change if it's going to grow. It needs to look more like the face of America, and that's not something you can do in a year, six years, or more. That has to be a constant pursuit, a generational pursuit.

But whether it's the PGA of America, the PGA TOUR, the USGA, the LPGA, I think all the key entities in this game understands that we need to make this game more diverse.

Q. Kerry, you've been involved here for several years. Could you talk about some of the strategic tweaks you've made with Rees Jones on the golf course, you know, the bunker on 11 and so on. What specific changes in the setup have you made over the last few years here?
KERRY HAIGH: The golf course, I think, Bradley, to my mind, is now a more enjoyable, strategic course. I think adding the roll-offs around the greens, the chipping areas. I think, obviously, there was moving and changing of some of the bunker positioning, having the fairways roll into the bunkers, make the bunkers part of the challenge and the thoughts on every tee shot and what have you.

The green complex has pretty much remained the same as they were in '92, but I do think the course now offers a lot more variety and shot types for all players. They may not choose to play them. There's many holes where driver is an option or not, which any time you have to start thinking and making decisions, I think it's a beautiful thing for all golfers, not just the best players in the world.

We did tell the players we're likely to use the forward tee, specifically on 11, probably one or possibly two days, so that the players have that choice to maybe go at the green or not. And I'll just say there was a bunker left of the green. There now isn't. So there's certainly more room to bail out to the left, not necessarily an easier shot from the left. So all those factors where you can make not only the best player in the world think but any golfer think is a more enjoyable golf course.

My hope is that's the philosophy at any venue we play, which is to make it more enjoyable, make you think, and as I say, the best players hopefully will enjoy that. The par 5s, we may, again, use a forward tee or not, depending how they play from the 600 yard tee, and we've had two sets of tee markers out there all week for players to look at and try if they want.

So sort of all those factors, I think, hopefully will make it for a great test, which it already is. It's 7,300 yards long, it's a par 70, and it's soft. So it's -- for some players, it's going to be playing pretty long as well until it starts to dry out.

THE MODERATOR: Everything you want to know about Bellerive Country Club. Thank you very much for that question.

Q. Pete, two things. First of all, what's the status of your search for your successor? Who's doing it, and what are they looking for? And, two, the more you reflect on the move to May, what does that tell you? What are you thinking about that move to May next year?
PETE BEVACQUA: I would say I've had many conversations with our officers and our board about the CEO process and the next steps. They're discussing that almost each and every day. And I think that what's most important is that the PGA of America takes its time and gets the right person. I said anything I can do in that regard throughout the process, I'd be happy to help in any way. When you get a candidate or a series of candidates, if there's any questions I can answer of those people, I'd be happy to.

I think it's obviously a big decision for the PGA of America, and personally for me, nothing would make me happier than to see them get a person who will just take this place to all new and even better levels of excellence.

In terms of the move to May, I would say you can never be 100 percent confident in the decision, but I think, if I speak for Kerry for a moment, and certainly speak for myself, I think we're about as close to 100 percent confident in that decision as possible. That doesn't mean there's not going to be difficult situations, but there's difficult situations whenever you conduct a major championship. You can have the best plans in the world, but to have a great Major, you need a little bit of luck too. Whether that's the weather, whether that's traffic, you know, everything has to come together and has to come together as perfectly or as close to perfectly as possible.

But there was just that moment in time where the stars aligned, and we really took advantage of that moment and of an opportunity to hopefully continue to elevate the PGA Championship, to kind of go off of all the great work this team has done, that Kerry Haigh and David Charles, how they built this PGA Championship over the last several decades. And when you think about the changes to the golf landscape -- and I said this a year ago. When you think about August and how August was changing, this doesn't -- it's not going to be your traditional August anymore. The advent of the Olympics and the fact that the PGA Championship would have to change dates every four years, knowing that the PGA TOUR were thinking about making some moves with the FedExCup, thinking about the month of May from a media perspective, thinking about the month of May from the fact of what would it mean to follow the Masters and to chronologically be the second of the four Majors as opposed to the fourth?

And maybe most importantly for us and for our organization was the fact that 85 percent of our members are starting their golf seasons in that time of year. So when we have the platform of the PGA Championship and the national and international exposure that our television partners provide to us, to be able to use that platform to talk about PGA Junior League golf, to talk about go out and find your local PGA professional and take a lesson from him or her, we have to use that moment if we're really going to fully execute our strategic plan. And when we listed all the pros and cons of moving to May, it quickly became an obvious decision for this organization.

And these were conversations that started 4, 4 1/2 years ago. Kerry and I have been talking about this for a while. Really started when we started to contemplate the impact the Olympics would have potentially on the long term of the PGA Championship. We are huge proponents of the Olympics, but we also have to protect the PGA Championship.

And then you think about the cadence of the golf schedule, for spectators, for the greatest players in the world. When you think about the PLAYERS Championship in March, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, moving into the FedExCup in the month of August, and then the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, that's a great cadence to the golf schedule that we think is going to serve everybody in the game.

And I would tell you, one of my real kind of challenges and regrets -- and you know this better than anybody, Mark, because you and I grew up in the same part of the country -- I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to Bethpage next year to see the 101st PGA Championship in May on the Black Course I think will be a special moment for golf.

Q. Kerry, what has been the green mowing frequency so far Monday through Wednesday? And then how will that change according to your notice to the players starting tomorrow for day one of play?
KERRY HAIGH: We've made adjustments during the week, including today, so we have made specific adjustments, and we'll continue to monitor it. But we're very comfortable and love where we're at today.

Q. Do you anticipate a significant change in speed from today to tomorrow still, as your notice had said? And is it actually a change in mowing height or just frequency of mowing and rolling?
KERRY HAIGH: It is -- today the greens are quicker than they were the last two days, and they're very close to what we are hoping they will be for the four days. We wanted to try and get -- so today was a lot closer, and they are a lot closer, if not almost there. So we're very comfortable. We'll see how much they slow this afternoon, if they do slow, but we are really comfortable. We love where they're at. They're rolling beautifully. And Carlos Arraya and his team, just unbelievable, great job.

Q. Setups can often dominate the discussion in a Major championship, particularly when the players are unhappy or they feel as though the setup is unfair in some way. Those criticisms tend not to happen at this event. When you're sitting at home and you watch other Major championships falling into that trap, where the players become unhappy, what goes through your mind, and how does it maybe influence what you end up doing at this event?
KERRY HAIGH: Our hope and my hope, and I think the plan is that the players are the story. It is their Major championship. We want to showcase the best players in the world on great golf courses. And I don't like being up here. I don't really want to talk about it because we are not the story. It's the players and the golf course.

So as we said to the previous question, we just try and prepare the golf course so that players have opportunities to think and play. Truly it's the players are the show. We are not the show. And that's our aim for every championship is to make it fun, make it exciting, make it difficult, tough hole locations, opportunities to just make the golfer think. And if you can do that, I think the players enjoy it more. They react more. And hopefully, good golf and great golf is rewarded. So that's exactly our philosophy day in, day out, every year. Hopefully, we'll do our best this year as well.

THE MODERATOR: Be honest. How many people in here were really trying to picture Kerry Haigh watching championship golf in the living room of his home with that question?

Q. Kerry, it appears that the collars were recently just put in and resodded. From a timeline, when were those new transitions put into place on the golf course?
KERRY HAIGH: I would want to say about three weeks ago, maybe a month ago, and it's actually a Bermuda grass, as the mowing sheet said. Latitude 38 Bermuda. But they turned out beautifully. Aesthetically, the difference in the grass color may not quite come over on TV quite as well, but the surface is really well. They've knitted in beautifully and could not be happier with them.

Q. Pete, could you bring us up to date on the pending move of the PGA of America to Texas. It seemed like it was on the front burner. Now lately it seems more on the back burner. What's the status?
PETE BEVACQUA: I would tell you, I mean those conversations are happening literally as Kerry -- as we sit up here and address all of you, a decision has not been made. There's certainly -- everybody -- many of you have probably read about the potential of the PGA of America moving to Frisco. That's still certainly a possibility, but it's also a possibility that we'll stay in southern Florida or even look at other opportunities around the rest of the country.

And really this is something that started two years ago, where we all came to the conclusion that our current headquarters, those current buildings, although they're in a wonderful part of the country, just weren't getting -- not getting it done for us. Just designed in a way that's not kind of what's in mind with kind of a modern headquarters setting.

And as we went out and started to talk to people about potential and opportunities, we had a lot of interesting offers come our way, and certainly the opportunity in Frisco stood out from the others. But any move of a headquarters, whether you go across the street or halfway across the country, is complicated. It's difficult on everybody. It's difficult on the staff to be in this period of limbo where we don't know exactly where we'll be. Are we going to stay put? Are we going to move to Frisco? Could we move somewhere else?

So I know the goal is to resolve that and come to a conclusion as soon as possible, but we're just not there yet, unfortunately, because we would like to have made that decision.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. It is that time of the program now where members of the media may approach the head table and deliver good-bye gifts to Pete Bevacqua.

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