We are just less than two weeks away from the PGA Championship and Bethpage State Park is almost ready to welcome thousands of fans for the second major tournament in golf this year. Before the pros tee off on May 16, PGA Championship Director Scott Reid took some time out to reflect on the work that has been done in the last 10 months to prepare for the event.
“It’s coming along great,” said Reid. “We’ve been very fortunate with the weather, having a mild winter. We actually started building the championship back in February, so obviously everyone was a little bit nervous about the weather, but we’ve been very fortunate. The build has gone as well as we could of anticipated.”
Reid and his team arrived at Bethpage State Park back in July with the grand opening of their headquarters in the right side of the parking lot. Their goal in the early months was to promote ticket sales for the tournament as well as host other promotional events, including a cocktail reception that gave a look at the tournament’s set-up and the corporate hospitality accommodations in October. Since then, all focus has been on getting the course ready for its biggest event since hosting the 2009 U.S. Open.
“Tickets sales have been going on and we’ve reached a point where we are sold out on Saturday and Sunday,” said Reid. “We still have tickets left for Monday through Friday at the moment. As I’ve said, we started building the structures for the event in February and I would say we’re about 70 percent complete. We have over 500,000-square-feet of flooring that we are putting down. And then we have big tents that we’re putting on top of them so it’s a pretty big build.”
Over the next week and a half, Reid’s team will be putting the finishing touches on their work, with construction wrapping up very soon and walking areas being finalized for fans, as well as making sure other important elements are in place.
“We’re focusing on a lot of details,” said Reid. “All the tent structures are up so now its completing all the interior areas to those tents. We also have some fan walkways we are working on. We have to build some decking where the fans will walk as they make their way through the main entrance. We’ve been also meeting with the law enforcement agencies involved in the security plan. Just making sure we’re ready to go for the championship.”
The course itself is set to be in great shape by the time the tournament begins, barring the weather. Andy Wilson, the director of agronomy at Bethpage State Park, talked to Reid about the field’s condition and was very optimistic about how it will play in the middle of May.
“He feels really good about where the golf course is with three weeks to go,” said Reid. “Hopefully the weather will continue to stay on a warming trend and that will help with the rough growing a little bit. I don’t want to jinx anything, knock on wood, but everyone is excited about where we are right now with the golf course. We’re hoping we don’t get a bunch of rain.”
Leading up to the tournament, Reid said that they will be holding a grand opening for their PGA shops from Friday, May 10, to Sunday, May 12, leading into PGA Championship week that is open to the public. As for during the tournament, fans will be able to visit Cafe 101, a place for refreshments and taking photos with a giant replica version of the Wanamaker Trophy. There will also be a fan zone that will have golf simulations, putting lessons and information about state parks in New York. There will be plenty of concessions throughout the area, including “Taste of New York” on hole 14 for New York-centric cuisine.
The momentum of Tiger Woods winning The Masters will certainly have an impact on the PGA Championship as more people will be tuned in to see the all-time great try to win back-to-back majors.
“We couldn’t ask for a better lead-in to the PGA Championship,” said Reid. “Tiger being back in the forefront of golf has certainly piqued people’s interest in golf. It’s great for us here at the tournament but it’s great for the PGA as a whole.”
For more information on weekday tickets, parking and other championship details, visit www.pga.com/events/pgachampionship.