The Washington Times-Herald
---- — For the most part, Tuesday seemed like just about any other day this summer in the Wabash Valley. However, If one had their ear to ground and pointed toward the southeast, one heard a pretty significant rumble.
In French Lick (or West Baden if you want to parse geography), the PGA of America announced that the 2015 Senior PGA golf championship would be coming to the Pete Dye Course at the French Lick Resort.
Now for non-golfers this might not mean much, but for the 50-mile area surrounding the French Lick resort, it will mean a lot. The PGA recently had the Professional National Tournament there, and they must have been impressed, because the Senior PGA is normally played at a course that is being groomed for something bigger, like a PGA championship or a Ryder Cup.
So what does that have to do with us? Money.
In a article out of Louisville in 2011, it was estimated that the Senior PGA that was played at Valhalla generated 4,350 paid room nights at area hotels. More than four hotels and several corporate apartments were needed to accommodate PGA guests and staff alone, according to a PGA official. More than 50,000 spectators attended that event and it pumped about $25 million into the Louisville-area economy, according to a release from the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Now I can do the math and I know what is available for food and lodging in Orange County, and that means Washington, Jasper/Huntingburg, Bedford, Jeffersonville/Louisville and Bloomington should all see overflow bookings to hotels and restaurants during that time.
Since golf fans are also normally golfers, they should be significantly more play at the surrounding area golf courses and hopefully some return play as well, along with money spent on gas, food and libations.
And oh yeah, it will be a very cool tournament as well.
I was at the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick in Carmel two years ago and followed, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin and Ben Crenshaw. These were the guys who got me interested in golf and it was great to be at a venue where they are so accessible.
At 50, these are generally golfers who understand their place in golf history and now seemed more concerned with enjoying a victory lap with friends and fans. That atmosphere was professional, but still casual and fun. Former Ryder Cup captain Dave Stockton and I had a little chat next to the practice putting green, where I’m sure the tips I gave him were given his FULL attention.
At French Lick, we might see Fuzzy Zoeller or Larry Bird as an unofficial hosts, and players like Watson and Irwin could be playing in what might be one of their final majors. By tournament time, Steve Elkington, Vijay Singh, Rocco Mediate, Davis Love III Jeff Maggert, Lee Janzen and Jesper Parnevik will all be 50 and eligible, but I still believe the course will be the biggest star.
I once said, the Dye Course is a lot like lunar golf, except the moon is easier to get to and the craters are easier to play out of. It is a course that has to be seen to be believed. Although I doubt it will play anything close to its 8,000-yard tips, it will still require the type of shot-making that have made these players legends. Not only will you be able to get on the course as a spectator, there should be plenty of opportunities to get inside the ropes as a volunteer, as well.
This is a unique opportunity for our area, and hopefully, will help show the PGA that French Lick is more than just Pluto Water and 3-pointers and will help pave the way to a PGA TOUR event, PGA Championship or even a Ryder Cup.