Championship golf back in PNW this week but remains elusive in big picture

Jun 19, 2024, 3:06 PM

Sahalee Women's PGA Championship PNW Seattle golf...

Paula Creamer during a 2016 event at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SAMMAMISH, Wash. (AP) — When the U.S. Open came to the Pacific Northwest for the first time nearly a decade ago, golf enthusiasts in the upper left corner of the country hoped it’d be the start of significant events making a regular visit.

So far, that has not come to fruition and there’s not much on the horizon to suggest it’ll change.

“I think it depends on how you define major championships and from a typical golf fan viewership I think we could do more here in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Washington state,” said Troy Andrew, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association.

The Seattle area will get a taste of major golf this week when the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is played at Sahalee Country Club for the second time. The course hosted the tournament in 2016 and served as the conclusion to a run of big golf events that visited the Puget Sound region during a six-year window that began in 2010.

For one week, an area that doesn’t have a regular stop on the PGA or LPGA tours and hasn’t hosted a major golf event in eight years will get a brief snippet at Sahalee. But it’s unlikely to satisfy golf enthusiasts who continue to ponder why one of the largest markets in the country is without a regular event on the top tours.

There’s no PGA Tour stop anywhere in the Pacific Northwest and the closest LPGA Tour event is in Portland, Oregon – this year the final event before the Olympics.

“We have 41 sections and ideally we’d bring a major to each one of those sections over a reasonable timeframe,” PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said. “That’s where we live, we live in growing the game. A lot of people talk about it. It’s really what we do. Bringing it to local places makes a big difference.”

The opening of Chambers Bay and the 2015 U.S. Open being played about an hour south of Seattle was viewed as the portal to more championship golf finally being directed into this corner of the country. The course was built with major championships in mind and crowds flocked to the course on the shore of Puget Sound to see the championship decided in the PNW for the first time.

But the first impression left behind drew immediate complaints from players and fans. Whether it was the bumpy greens and burnt-out fairways left by unseasonably warm weather and poor watering decisions, or issues with fans’ ability to move around the venue, the feeling after Chambers Bay was unsatisfactory.

And the hopes for getting a second chance seem to be fleeting. The course changed its greens and hosted both the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur in the hope of those being steppingstones to something bigger – perhaps a U.S. Women’s Open.

But the Women’s Open is already scheduled thru 2036 and the earliest another chance at hosting a U.S. Open doesn’t appear available until 2043.

“I’m disappointed we haven’t seen another major come from that. After the 2015 U.S. Open, I was one of those people excited they were going to announce the next one 10 years later, something like that,” Andrew said.

This week will fill a bit of the void for golf fans in the region and will be the second time Sahalee has hosted the event after a memorable finish in 2016 won by Brooke Henderson. Sahalee previously hosted the 1998 PGA Championship, 2002 NEC Invitational and 2010 U.S. Senior Open, but the decision on hosting more at the private, tree-lined country club ultimately comes down to the club’s members.

“It’s just a really beautiful golf course as well. You kind of get lost in the nature out here,” said Nelly Korda, the No. 1 ranked player in the world.

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