FRENCH LICK, Ind. — You can see signs for the Senior LPGA Championship immediately once you turn on to Broadway Street. There’s even a giant advertisement for it on the side of the Valley Health building across from the entrance to the West Baden Springs Hotel.
But while this tournament is an important step in the golf world, the town of French Lick has been here before. Hosting golf tournaments is becoming second nature for its residents.
“Since the Pete Dye Course was opened in 2009, we’ve hosted 14 different championship events,” said Dave Harner, the director of golf operations for French Lick Resort. “It’s good for our community and area business. It’s good for our staff’s morale. It brings recognition. All of that together fits into the package well and gives us a huge lift from that standpoint. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The history of major golf events in French Lick dates back almost a century. The French Lick Springs Golf Club previously held the PGA Championship in 1924. But with introduction of the Pete Dye Golf Course eight years ago, the French Lick Resort has made an effort to promote golf in the area and bring in several more tournaments.
In addition to others, the Dye Course has hosted the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Championship (2012-2014), the USGA Men’s Team Championship (2014), the Legends Tour Championship (2013-2016) and the Senior PGA Championship (2015) with future tournaments in the works.
This one is different because it is the first major championship for senior women. Announced in December by the LPGA, the Pete Dye Course and French Lick agreed to a five-year commitment to host the event.
“We hope this grows into something similar to the men’s senior championship,” said Harner. “It should. These ladies are great players and they’ll show that to the worldwide audience on the Golf Channel.”
Although past events have been run by the Resort, everyone in the community works together to be on the same page promoting the town and its tourism. The economic impact for this particular tournament remains to be seen, in part because it is new. However, past events at the Pete Dye have brought a positive impact to French Lick.
“It’s completely different from the ones that they’ve done in the past,” said Misty Weisensteiner, the executive director of Visit French Lick West Baden. “We really don’t know what the economic impact of what this particular one is going to be. But, I think this one is going to be greater than the previous ones because of the publicity that it is creating.”
As far as preparation for the tournament, Harner and his staff didn’t need to make many changes to the course itself. The Pete Dye Course is one of the most revered courses in Indiana and maintains a championship-level course year round. There will be approximately 200 volunteers on hand each day of the tournament and Harner is hoping for 5,000 fans each round.
The biggest adjustment was in getting ready for television — towers, a control booth, stakes, wires, generators, trailers, and more. The Golf Channel will air each round from 3-5 p.m. CDT through Wednesday.
“We feel like every customer deserves the best possible course conditions that we can give them,” said Harner. “So as far as course conditions, we don’t need to change a lot. For the championship this time, the Golf Channel is involved. That’s about 60-70 extra people on site.
“There are all sorts of small pieces that come together for one big tournament.”
Source: Evansville Courier & Press, http://bit.ly/2ub1L49
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com