Spring 2018

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L ocal duffers always have known that Northern California is the center of the golf universe, but recently the game's governing bodies have made it official, locking in an unprecedented 15-year slate of big-time tournaments in Pebble Beach and San Francisco. It begins in June with the PGA Professional Championship at Bayonet/Black Horse in Seaside, continues with the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship at Poppy Hills Golf Course in July and heats up with the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links in August. Then the hits just keep on coming: • 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach • 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park • 2021 U.S. Women's Open at The Olympic Club • 2023 U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach • 2025 Walker Cup at Cypress Point • 2025 Presidents Cup at TPC Harding Park • 2027 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach • 2028 PGA Championship at The Olympic Club • 2032 Ryder Cup at The Olympic Club All of this plus annual pro tournaments such as the PGA Tour's AT&T Pro-Am, Safeway Open, Barracuda Championship, PGA Tour Champions Pure Insurance Open at Pebble and Poppy Hills, the LPGA's springtime tournament at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City (now known as the MEDIHEAL Championship) and the Tour Ellie Mae Classic. Besides the quality of the courses, which is self- evident, what is driving this new golden age of golf in these parts? There are a number of factors: Guilt.There hasn't been a Ryder Cup on the West Coast since 1959. There has only been one domestic Presidents Cup west of the Mississippi. It was long overdue for these events to be played in Northern Cal- ifornia. More than a decade ago, the USGA promised to bring a Women's Open to Pebble Beach; in the interim the Women's British Open has visited classic courses like Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie and the Old Course, outshining our national championship. And so, "We are incredibly proud to bring the U.S. Women's Open to Pebble Beach for the first time," then USGA president Diana Murphy said in announcing the venue. "The USGA is committed to bringing our champi- onships to golf's greatest venues and the opportunity to have the best players in the world, female and male, compete at this iconic course will provide a fantastic showcase of the game." Those in the women's game see the Pebble Open as both a validation and deep honor. "It elevates our championship," says LPGA veteran Christina Kim, a Northern California native. "If we play the Open on a course that golfers don't know, they can't fully appreciate our play. But if you birdie 17 at Pebble on Sunday, that's Jack Nicklaus territory. Maybe you chip-in on 17 like Tom Watson. Pebble is so iconic that whomever among us wins there becomes an icon, too." Backlash. Two of the last three U.S. Opens (at Chambers Bay and Erin Hills) have been experiments conducted on new courses. Neither was a rousing suc- cess. Players, fans and reporters made it plain that they prefer the U.S. Open to be played on old, classic courses, which helped bring the tournament back to Pebble a mere eight years after the 2019 edition. Mean- while, recent Ryder Cup host venues have been unin- spiring, the courses chosen for financial and logistical reasons rather than the quality of the layout. The Olympic Club will offer a course that is equal to the stature of the Ryder Cup. "Olympic is without a doubt one of the toughest courses on the planet," says Olin Browne, a vice captain for the U.S. team at the 2008 Ryder Cup. "There's going to be some carnage." Television. With the Tiger-era TV contracts expir- ing amidst this cord-cutting epoch, getting more eye- balls on the pricey golf telecasts is imperative. Northern California championships can be broadcast in prime time to the eastern U.S., increasing the potential audi- ence. Additionally, in 2019 the PGA Tour is going to a rejiggered schedule to avoid competing with the 800- pound gorilla that is football in the fall. The PGA Cham- pionship, which has traditionally been played in August, is moving to May and there are widespread concerns that eastern and northern courses will no longer be able to host the event, as turf conditions will be substandard coming on the heels of the winter months. There are no such concerns about San Francisco. So, while this has never been a more felicitous time to be a Northern California golf fan, plenty of insiders are rejoicing, too. Says veteran pro Paul Goydos, "If you're a golf writer, why would you possibly live any- where else?" Alan Shipnuck is a senior writer for Golf Magazine and 20 SPRING 2018 | NCGA.ORG O N T H E B E A T The Best of Times BY ALAN SHIPNUCK

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