If there’s a 3 in the year, such as 2023, it has come to mean one thing for sure: The PGA of America is bringing the PGA Championship back to Oak Hill Country Club.
A staple of golf’s major calendar for over a century, the PGA Championship was played at Oak Hill in 2003, returned in 2013 and will be here again in 2023 with the 105th rendition of the event. The event runs the week of May 15-21, 2023, with tournament play beginning May 18.
The PGA of America is golf. Oak Hill says golf. Thus, it’s been a perfect partnership.
“This is one of the pre-eminent, historical golf places in America, with the events that have been played here and who has played here,” said Barry Deach, championship director for the PGA.
Indeed, within the Oak Hill archive is a What’s What and Who’s Who of golf. Lee Trevino won the 1968 U.S. Open on the East Course. Jack Nicklaus owned Oak Hill in winning the 1980 PGA Championship. Curtis Strange became the first player to successfully defend his U.S. Open title in 38 years when he won the event in 1989 at Oak Hill.
In the 1995 Ryder Cup, Europe trailed the United States by two points, 9-7, but rallied to win the event 14 ½ to 13 ½, the first time the Europeans had won the event when trailing after two days.
Toss in Senior PGA Championships in 2008 and 2019, plus the U.S. Amateur in 1998, and Oak Hill’s place in golf history will never be forgotten.
The 2023 event, however, will be about making new memories, and new fans.
Corporate hospitality sales have been strong, which the PGA expected, even with the U.S. economy battling inflation. The larger suites sold out before March had ended.
“Because of the pandemic, there’s a pent-up demand for people to get back to some kind of fun and celebration,” Deach said. “We’re seeing the impact of that.”
Advance individual tickets — which quite often are the only tickets available — will be sold only through the PGA Ticket Registry (at the web address pgachampionship.com/2023/ticketregistry). Fans can sign up, secure a first-come, first-served slot, and then be able to purchase tickets when the slot comes up in June of this year, if the event is not sold out.
“The registry positions you within the go-to-market process; you lock in the date and time you can buy,” Deach said.
Something new for fans in Rochester: The month in which the tournament will be played. Since 1969, the event has always been an August fixture. But beginning in 2019, the PGA Championship was moved to the May.
“It’s the No. 1 participation month in golf, it’s one of the greatest months in golf across the country,” Deach said.
And since the Rochester area and all of Western New York remains a golf hotbed, interest ramps up even more because of the PGA Championship.
“There are a lot of golfers within this region, we know that, we study that, we have the data that supports it,” Deach said.
Since the PGA of America is all about growing the game at all levels, having the event in May provides the opportunity to capitalize on that natural momentum and spring fever.
Part of the process for growing the game involves the experience at the course. Just as the National Football League has created a host of events within Super Bowl week, the PGA is delivering more to fans than just a 72-hole golf tournament.
The PGA will experiment with an all-inclusive food and beverage pass, sans alcohol, at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. If it’s a hit, you can expect to see it, or some version of it, at Oak Hill.
The tournament merchandise shop is essentially a mall anchor store on a golf course. It’s the size of a football field, has more than 50 checkout registers and may have more choices than Amazon.
“When you see the championship shops from a design standpoint and a merchandise selection standpoint, it’s extraordinary,” Deach said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime luxury shopping experience. That’s part of the memory, if you will.”
Even just getting a hot dog can be upscaled.
“We’re introducing marketplaces instead of just concessions,” Deach said. “Our expectations of the food experience is vastly different.”
Also vastly different: television coverage. For decades, there was between 23 and 27 hours of live tournament coverage, Deach said. Now between CBS Sports and ESPN, there will be 100 hours, from first tee shot on early Thursday morning to the final putt on Sunday afternoon.
That means a lot of aerial views, and a lot of airtime to talk about not just golf. In essence, the PGA Championship is a four-day infomercial for the Flower City and Monroe County.
“That’s an important opportunity for Rochester,” Deach said. “Therefore, Rochester has a part to play in it, that greater Rochester message and celebrating more in 2023 is a wonderful opportunity.
“From a community perspective, that’s always fantastic when you have something people can put their arms around and celebrate more about the community and the importance of what Oak Hill is to the community.”
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