Highlands course ready for PGA

Photo by Ben Beitzel

Photo by Ben Beitzel

The CEO of the PGA of America has no question that the Atlanta Athletic Club is ready for a successful stint as host for the 93rd PGA Championship in less than six months.

Joe Steranka, in Atlanta on Tuesday as part of Georgia Golf Day at the state capitol, said things were progressing smoothly for the tournament, which will be played on the Highlands course on Aug. 8-14 at the historic facility in Johns Creek.

"One of the reasons we're coming back is it has the finest physical plant of any facility we play at," Steranka said, referring to the size of the course, its infrastructure, its clubhouse and the parking capabilities. "It's ready made to host the biggest events in golf and that will allow us to spend more time promoting the event."

The Atlanta Athletic Club did such an outstanding job hosting the event in 2001 that the PGA took the unprecedented step to announce the championship's return on the final day, before champion David Toms had a chance to lift the Wanamaker Trophy that goes to the PGA champion.

Steranka gets regular reports from Ryan Cannon, the championship director, and John Handley, the director of sales and marketing. That duo has worked with Atlanta Athletic Club staff members Chris Borders (general manager), Rick Anderson (director of golf) and Ken Mangum (golf course and grounds director) to ensure a smooth progression to the championship.

Officials at the Athletic Club have made it no secret that they wish to be part of the regular rotation for the PGA Championship and want to be considered as a future Ryder Cup site. The PGA venue has been announced through 2017, but a return in 2018 for the 100th championship might make sense, given the club's ties with the legendary Bobby Jones. The PGA of America isn't ready to make a statement on the possible return to Atlanta.

Steranka said the PGA Championship brought more than $50 million into the local and state economy in 2001 and expects that number to possibly increase this summer. That will increase the size of Georgia's direct golf economy, which was estimated at $2.4 billion, according to a report commissioned by Golf 20/20 on behalf of the Georgia Allied Golf Council.

It is estimated that Georgia's golf industry generated an economic impact of $5.1 billion in 2009, supporting nearly 57,000 jobs with $1.5 billion in wage income.

"Golf is a billion-dollar industry in Georgia that serves as a leader in charitable donations, a major contributor and driver of jobs, wage income and tourism," Steranka said.

As part of the celebration of golf, the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate each proclaimed 2001 as the "Year of Golf in Georgia." It's a rare occasion that two of golf's four major championships will be played in the same state.