Questions abound over Quail Hollow’s PGA Tour commitment after 2014
Quail Hollow is living on cloud nine at the moment. The course, which will be hosting the Quail Hollow Championship later this week (did you know it was sponsored by Wells Fargo?), has enjoyed amazing success since becoming a staple of the PGA Tour schedule.
Sports Illustrated golf writer, Alan Shipnuck, went so far as to proclaim the tournament the “fifth major” earlier today, a title that used to go to the Players Championship.
With a $6.5 million purse and a field that boasts Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and a host of other big name players, it’s easy to see why the Charlotte-based event is such a massive draw each year.
While the event has been a huge success, there is talk that Quail Hollow’s membership isn’t 100 percent behind the tournament. The Charlotte Business Journal did an intriguing Q&A with Quail Hollow Club President Johnny Harris, the man behind bringing golf back to the Charlotte area.
Harris understands the draw of playing the tournament at his club; but he also made it clear that tournament committee at the club will exhaust all option before they renew their contract with the PGA Tour after 2014.
Could the course, not the sponsor, walk away from a successful tour stop?
I found this particular portion of the Q&A with Harris to be the most telling of all. It lead me to believe that some members are growing tired of hosting the event at their course each year.
Your contract runs through 2014. Where do you stand beyond that?
Where we are is very simple: We have a contract through 2014. We look forward to having the Tour here until then, and then we’re going to look at all our alternatives.
At the same time, are you continuing to look at a Ryder Cup (next U.S. date available in 2024) or perhaps a PGA Championship (sites awarded through 2016)?
We’re always looking at what our alternatives would be. We’re fairly cognizant of what’s going on out in the golf world, and we talk to everybody.
How hard is it to maintain enthusiasm and momentum for the tournament eight years in?
We don’t have a turnover in the leadership either at the club or on the committees. Each year we challenge our team to try to do some other things. You’ll see some unusual things happening behind the scenes. And the players are going to talk about it — little things like the hanging laundry bags (in the players’ locker room). We’re going to turn our Champions Park into an entertainment area where people can come and really, for the first time, they’ll be able to get a (mixed) drink on the golf course.
Are the Quail Hollow members frustrated — what feedback have you received?
Our board made the decision to have this tournament. We actually did a survey a while back. There are 10% to 15% who would just as soon not have it, a group of about 15% to 20% that are just bonkers for it and then there’s a group of about 45% that are for it and the rest are lukewarm. That’s always the case. Whenever this tournament has come up at our board level, there’s never been a vote against anything about this tournament. And by the way, there’s a window at the end of the tunnel.
I think you’re saying that you’re not hearing an outcry from members that’s making you say, “We won’t do this past 2014.”
No, but we don’t have a contract past 2014.
You’re so involved in golf here and beyond. Would you like to have an ongoing PGA Tour event?
What I’m most interested in is trying to figure out the best way to bring the best players in the world to Charlotte to play golf and in a way that is not a negative on our membership.
So it doesn’t necessarily have to be every year?
Wouldn’t think so. (PGA Tour Commissioner) Tim (Finchem) and I are going to have lunch during the tournament. I don’t think we would ever do anything that wasn’t as strong or positive to the club as this arrangement is. We’re not going to do something that’s not appropriate for our members. If it’s not out there, it’s not out there.
Based on Harris’ comments, I’d venture a guess that you won’t see Quail Hollow hosting this stop after 2014. Maybe they get into a rotation with another course or put their name in the running as a U.S. Open or PGA Championship site, but I highly doubt they’ll be here after 2014.
The membership doesn’t seem to be all too pleased with the year-to-year deal they’re currently stuck with. To be honest, I don’t blame them. It does take a lot of effort to put on a show each year. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if Quail Hollow decides to pull rank and walk away from the spotlight of the PGA Tour.