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TRANSCRIPT of PGA TOUR and PGA of AMERICA Partnering with TCP HARDING PARK

Press Conference was held on July 2, 2014

 

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you for joining me today in welcoming a good friend and somebody that I'd like to see very often in the city of San Francisco, and that's PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and also PGA of America President Ted Bishop.  Thank you very much for being here.

            I'm as excited as when former Mayor Willie Brown asked me to build that clubhouse out there at Harding Park back in the early 2000s, and he said you'd better build it on time because these PGA professionals are coming in, and they can't be delayed.  But I was really excited to put our skill sets together and try to revitalize a park into a world‑class golf facility, and that's exactly what we've done at TPC Harding Park.

            So today I'm here to celebrate the announcement along with President Bishop and Commissioner Finchem that TPC Harding Park will be hosting the 2020 PGA Championship and also the 2025 Presidents Cup at Harding Park.  Aren't these wonderful world‑class events that will be here.  And before those events arrive, next year in 2015 we'll be hosting the World Golf Championship Match Play Championship here at Harding Park, as well.

            These three events are a result of a very historic collaboration between PGA TOUR and PGA of America in concert with San Francisco.

            You know, we could only have done this with the foresight that Mayor Willie Brown had but also the dedication that the staff has with PGA TOUR in managing Harding Park and the concerted effort we've made to keeping that park and that golf course at world‑class standards.  We're very proud of this collaboration.  It's historic in many, many ways.  It would be the first in so many decades for a major in the world of golf to be hosted here in San Francisco.  I'm very proud of the staff for working so hard with the PGA to make sure this course is of that standard but also extremely happy with the PGA TOUR and PGA of America for coming here.

            I know that the PGA of America were here in disguise probably a few months ago playing the course and seeing whether or not on the turn of the 14th and 15th hole, whether those gunshots at the practice range across the lake were going to be turned off in match play, and of course they were wishing only during my opponent's hits would those gunshots go off, or if they were hoping there would be dragon boat races in the middle of their matches, which we also host at Lake Merced.

            This is an urban setting.  This is why they chose a great city like San Francisco to host this.  We're in an urban setting.  These parks are extremely valuable, and I want to say, again, on behalf of the city of San Francisco, thank you, Sandy Tatum, for your wonderful leadership in restoring Harding Park.  That clubhouse is named after you for a reason.

            I'm standing here amidst these wonderful trophies, and I'm sure the commissioner will mention, but let me also say this, as well.  In addition to these world‑class golf events that will bring the best players from around the world and in our country to be here and play here in the city, to fill our hotels and our great restaurants and all of our hospitality, I also want to say to you, as well, I appreciate the PGA for another important reason, and I know that since Commissioner Finchem took over in the mid‑'90s, the PGA TOUR has raised over a billion dollars in charity for all kinds of great community causes across the country, and I know that part of our DNA here is that we wish to have the First Tee program again enriched by all these wonderful golf tournaments, and we will do so in line and in alignment with the way we handle all these international events in San Francisco, whether it's World Series or America's Cup or Super Bowl L, where 25 percent of all the money raised will go to philanthropic causes.  The PGA TOUR matches that with their great cause, and the players themselves along with the PGA TOUR management I think have excelled in this arena so gracefully, and that is why we are proud to have the opportunity to host these world‑class events.

            With that, I want to say again, thank you to all of the PGA staff that are here, the different golf clubs that are here, the staff from our rec and park department and the other commissioners, and of course golf enthusiasts from the entire Bay Area to hear this announcement.  I'd like to introduce a good friend and someone I'd like to see here very often, and that is our PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.

 

            TIM FINCHEM:  Thank you, Mayor, and we are delighted to be here today to participate in this announcement of next year's, in May playing the World Golf Championship Match Play Championships here, Ted Bishop's announcement that the PGA Championship, one of the four major championships in golf will be played here in 2020, and then we will be bringing the Presidents Cup back here in 2025.

            If I could, I'd just like to look back for a second on the beginnings of how we got to this point, because today is an announcement of a lot of firsts, the first time that the PGA TOUR and the PGA have announced a series of events that are coordinated in this kind of fashion.  It's the first time that these three particular events will be played at the same venue, and it goes back really to 1997.  We were in the process of announcing the beginnings of the First Tee program, a program designed to bring golf to kids who historically had not had access to it all around the country.  Sandy Tatum got in touch with us and wanted me to come here the day after the announcement to have dinner with he and Chuck Schwab and some other corporate leaders, which I did, and it was Sandy's vision to rebuild the Harding Park to take it back to its grand old days but also to create a venue for First Tee kids and to really use it as a beachhead, if you will, and a center point for First Tee in the Northern California area.

            It was a great idea.  We were all excited about it.  I think two years later, Mayor Brown, we had a press conference announcing that we were going to try to get this done.  Another year went by, another year went by.  It wasn't getting done, but Sandy wasn't giving up.  He would never give up, and it was his perseverance really that brought us to the point of being able to partner with the city, rebuild Harding Park, and then we were on our way with the 2005 World Golf Championship with a playoff with Tiger Woods and John Daly in compelling style on this golf course, followed by 2009 and a very successful Presidents Cup, and we learned a lot in those two tournaments.  We learned about the enthusiasm of the fans in the Bay Area, the diversity of the fans, the intelligence of the fans, and our players noticed that, as well, that you had thousands of people who came out to Harding Park, really understood golf.  They knew golf.  They were there to follow golf, and it just became a wonderful thing to be able to play that level of competition at Harding Park.

            So to come ‑‑ and then since that time, three Schwab Cup Championships in participation with Chuck, and I know that Chuck was very helpful at the end of that process, Sandy, to help get the clubhouse built, as well.

            So here we are today, and we are excited about this for a number of reasons:  One, to have a major championship played at a TPC venue is very special.  As I was saying to the mayor a few minutes ago, this past weekend all I heard Ian Baker‑Finch on CBS say over and over and over again in Washington, D.C., at Congressional is major championship venue, major championship venue, and with Ted's announcement today, from today on, Harding Park will always be referred to as a major championship venue, which in and of itself is a really terrific thing for any golf course.

            The focus it will bring on the First Tee, to help the First Tee get moving is very positive, as well.

            I'd like to spend just a second before I bring Ted up to talk for a second about the Match Play Championship.  We think that Harding Park ‑‑ having played the Presidents Cup in 2009 and being excited about it coming back in 2025, we know it sets up so well for match play, which was a factor in deciding to bring it here the week before THE PLAYERS Championship next spring.

            But also, which you may not be aware of, we're bringing it forward with a new format.  Historically we have the top 64 players in the world, No. 1 against 64, 2 against 63, they play on Wednesday and we're down to 32 players.  They play on Thursday, et cetera.

            We're going to do it differently next year.  It's going to be a World Cup type format, and it's kind of nice that we're able to talk about that in the context of everybody in the United States being riveted to that format over the last month in Brazil where we'll be playing golf in the Olympics for the first time in '16.

            But the 64 players will be broken down into groups of four:  16 groups of four, and then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, they'll all play each other, and then we'll cut to the top 16 players out of that play to play to 16, 8, 4 and 2 on the weekend.

            Why is that important?  Well, first of all, it's a lot more golf.  There are going to be 96 matches for fans here to go out and watch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  It is a ton of golf, and one of the reasons we wanted to come here, because we know the fans here will relish the opportunity to have that much golf.

            Secondly, over time, the best players rise to the top, so we think that'll be positive as it goes into the weekend.  Third, I think if you're a Steve Stricker fan or a Bubba Watson fan or a Tiger Woods fan, you're going to be able to follow your favorite player for three days hoping that he makes it into the round of 16.

            So we think it's a new direction for the Match Play for sure but one that's going to create a lot more enthusiasm and excitement.

            So we are on a new direction here in San Francisco, and I just want to comment that starting with Sandy in all these years, the relationship with the city, the mayors who preceded our mayor and this mayor who did this overall arrangement in warp speed, it just works so well for us here with the partnerships that we've developed, we want to continue it well into the future.

            Now, as I bring up Ted Bishop, Ted became president of the PGA a year and a half ago.  In my view he has been already a great visionary for the game of golf.  He looks down the road.  He likes to do things differently.  He likes to take everything to another level, and I think the decision to come to the West Coast and particularly Harding Park and play at another public golf course is a great direction for the PGA, and Ted, as you come up, let me congratulate you for that and for your partnership, and we wish you well as we work together in these next 15 years together.  Ted Bishop.

 

            TED BISHOP:  Well, you know, today is certainly a very monumental day in the history of the PGA of America and certainly in the golf community here in San Francisco.  I'm here to announce that the PGA Championship will come to TPC Harding Park in 2020, and it will mark the first time in the 102‑year history of the PGA Championship that it will have been played in the great city of San Francisco.  This would not be possible without the great collaboration between the city and the county of San Francisco, the PGA TOUR, and the PGA of America, and Mayor Lee, thanks to you, Phil Ginsburg, for all the work that you did.

            Tim, this seems like just another step in a lot of the things that we've been able to accomplish working together in the past 20 months, and I look forward certainly to a great future between the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR, and I'd be remiss if I didn't say a special thanks to Pete Bevacqua, our chief executive officer, and Kerry Haigh, our chief championships officer at the PGA of America because quite honestly we got this deal done in a pretty short period of time, and it was certainly not without their great efforts, as well.

            I think the thing that's important for everybody to understand here today is that the PGA officers and the PGA board of directors have been committed to trying to find a site for a West Coast PGA Championship for basically the past year, and we couldn't be more proud of the fact that it's going to take place here at TPC Harding Park.

            You know, we know that our friends here, the Northern California PGA section, are going to be great hosts.  You've done this before in major golf events, and we look forward to you guys doing a fantastic job for us, as well.

            You know, the 2020 PGA Championship is going to give us the opportunity really to showcase the strongest field in all of major golf during primetime television, and I think that was one of the big factors that caused us to want to come to the West Coast, and it also gives the PGA of America the flexibility in an Olympic year to possibly look at moving our championship to a different point in the golf calendar, assuming that we can work some of these things out with the PGA TOUR schedule.

            You know, we view this partnership with TPC Harding Park and the city and county of San Francisco as one that is going to be very important to us in the decades in the future, and I want to make this clear today.  This is the only venue in San Francisco that the PGA of America had any interest in bringing a major championship to.  This is the only venue that we had any discussions with in San Francisco, and we could not be prouder today, Mayor Lee and Commissioner Finchem, for this to become a reality.

            I think the reasons are real simple.  It wasn't hard for me to get fired up about this announcement today because I love history, and I love diving into the history of Harding Park and seeing what this place means to golf.

            I thought it was very interesting, totally unsolicited last week, I was contacted by two of our former PGA champions who have been part of some of the great golf lore here at Harding Park, and I wanted to give you a couple of those quotes today.  First of all, from Tiger Woods:  "Great memories of Harding Park, and it's good to see the PGA Championship played at a public golf course.  Significant renovations were made to the course, and it's exciting that this is the PGA Championship in San Francisco."

            Also from Phil Mickelson:  "Harding Park was an excellent host for the WGC event and the Presidents Cup.  It deserves the opportunity now to host a major championship, and I'm excited for the course and the city to have one of golf's biggest events."

            You know, I thought ‑‑ this announcement today is really special because it means that the PGA Championship is going to be played in back‑to‑back years, 2019 and 2020 at two of the great municipal golf courses in this country:  Bethpage Black on the East Coast in New York in 2019, and obviously here in Harding Park in 2020 on the West Coast.  And I think for the PGA of America to play our championship in consecutive years at municipal golf courses makes a very profound statement, and it's one that is important because public golf is a primary entry point for golf in this country.  80 percent of the rounds that are played in this country are played on public golf courses, and as a PGA professional who has spent the last 43 summers of their life working on a public golf course, for me as president to be part of these two announcements has been a very special thing to me personally.

            You know, Harding Park in a lot of ways really is truly the essence of public golf.  It's hosted many championship events, but certainly none have been more impactful than the 1956 City Championship that was played here between Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward in front of 10,000 spectators, and as many of you know, Ken Venturi's father Fred was the head golf professional here for many years at Harding Park.  Today Ken Venturi still holds the course record of 59 and the distinction of eagling 17 of the 18 holes at Harding Park.

            I played there yesterday with John Hughes, the president of the Northern California section.  John, I mean, that's a feat that I can't even imagine anyone could accomplish.

            But there's been other people in golf that Harding Park has been special to.  I was contacted last week by Johnny Miller, and Johnny said to me, you know, he said, I have so many fond memories of Harding Park, and he said the putting green at Harding Park is really where I became a great putter, and he said, I got into a lot of putting games with adults out there, and he said, I really felt like that it made me the putter that I became when I went on the TOUR, and he said, you know, as a kid I loved going to Harding Park because he said you would see Ken Venturi, Bob Rosburg, George Archer, and he said it just became a great place to hang out.  He said, you know, I owe my development as a player to Harding Park, and I thought that was a very profound statement, and I wanted you to hear it today.

            Tom Watson obviously played many rounds at Harding Park when he was a student here at Stanford.  Juli Inkster was a two‑time city champion, women's city champion at Harding Park.  I thought one of the neatest things is I think the year was in 1944, Byron Nelson became the only PGA TOUR player to win two professional events on the same course in the same year when he won the Victory Open and the San Francisco Open.  And like so many other public golf courses in communities all over this nation, the atmosphere here has been absolutely magnetic for generations of golfers.

            You know, the last thing that I want to say today that's really a very special day for one man in this room.  Next week Sandy Tatum is going to turn 94 years old, and without his tenacity and his efforts at the turn of the century, Harding Park as we know it today would not exist.  In fact, as many of you know, it was used as a parking lot in the 1998 U.S. Open.  I thought Dan Dillon had one of the classic lines last night when we were talking about Harding Park, and he said, there was a point in time in the history of this golf course where we just hoped that it would get mowed for the City Championship.

            I think when you see the evolution and where Harding Park is today to where it once was not that long ago, Mr. Tatum, that's a great credit to you and to the city of San Francisco.

            I don't think I can say it any better than Tom Watson did in a conversation that he had with me about Sandy over the weekend, and I wanted to read you what Tom had to say.  "Without Sandy's character and the respect that he commands in the game of golf, coupled with his San Francisco political savvy, TPC Harding Park golf course, its clubhouse and its First Tee affiliation would not have been possible.  He was the catalyst in so many different ways with its success."  That's just unbelievable.

            Sandy, maybe in some way this is an early birthday present for you.  Your birthday is next week, July 7.  From the PGA of America you've got your major championship here in the city of San Francisco, and again, in closing I just want to say thanks to Mayor Lee and Commissioner Finchem and everybody with the PGA TOUR for making this great day possible.  Thank you.

 

            FastScripts by ASAP Sports

 

 

 

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