This year's PGA Championship site has come a long way in 15 years

Whistling Straits has come a long way in 15 years

August 12, 2010|By Jeff Shain, Tribune newspapers

Fifteen years ago, the land that was to become Whistling Straits was marked by abandoned cars, rusted refrigerators and the occasional unexploded mortar shell from an old anti-aircraft training base.

Now the stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline is set to play a prominent role in helping shape the next decade of golf memories.

Not only is the PGA Championship back for its second tour in six years — the fastest turnaround in that major's history — but it will make a third appearance in 2015. And the Ryder Cup has a reservation for 2020.

"I wouldn't say it's quite up to Pebble Beach standards," Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday, "but the views of that beach looking out over the lake are really extraordinary."

Not bad for a stretch of old waste dumps that bathroom-fixtures magnate Herb Kohler acquired back in the mid-1990s. A chunk of land had served as Camp Haven in the days immediately after World War II but was long abandoned by the time Kohler stepped in.

Kohler's first call went to cleanup crews, including some to handle toxic waste from the Camp Haven site. Demolition experts too.

The most important call, though, went to Pete Dye. The colorful course designer took the site and used his imagination, bringing the links-style look of Scotland and Ireland to Middle America.

And as for beyond 2020? "There's no reason the PGA wouldn't continue coming back," PGA of America chief Joe Steranka said.

Bad timing: As European Tour officials hold discussions with the British government over a new tax that could hit Ryder Cup players this fall, Steranka suggested it might have less of an impact than first anticipated.

"Our initial read is the players do forego big endorsement contracts to wear the U.S. flag and the European flag that week," Steranka said. "They aren't compensated by those endorsements during the week of the Ryder Cup, and it should not be an issue."

An exemption has been created for the upcoming London Olympics, and officials hope the Ryder Cup will be added to that list.

Tap-ins: The International Golf Federation reached into the ranks of the IOC for its next director. Anthony Scanlan, previously chief of Olympic Games coordination, will direct golf's Olympic return in 2016. … Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, N.C., has been selected to host the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur. … Former USGA President Judy Bell is the inaugural winner of the LPGA's Shirley G. Lumpkin Founders Award, for demonstrated commitment to growing interest in the game among girls.

— Jeff Shain

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