There were two winners from Sei Young Kim’s maiden major title at Aronimink Golf Club at the weekend.
The 10-time Tour winner finally bagged the major victory that has long seemed in her destiny but in the bigger picture it was also a win for golf architecture.
Since 2015 – when KPMG and the PGA of America came on board with the tournament – it has not only elevated its stature among the five women’s majors but has also helped make the business case for playing the game’s most important tournaments on its best courses.
What had formerly been the LPGA Championship has been transformed and could now argue to be behind only the US Women’s Open in terms of its standing in the game.
Some of this has to do with an increase in prize money (this year’s purse was US$4.3 million, up from US$2.25 million in 2014) but much of it also has to do with an impressive list of host venues.
"While good fields will inevitably put on a good show – even on an ordinary golf course – golf is at its best when the venue matches the occasion."
Of the six courses played since the new deal came into effect only one – Westchester Country Club – was without prior major credentials.
Sahalee Country Club, Olympia Fields, Hazeltine National, Kemper Lakes and this week’s venue, Aronimink, have all previously hosted Grand Slam events and their standing in the game automatically transfers credibility to the tournament.
While perhaps not the most admired courses in the US, all are a step up from previous host venues and all have contributed to creating compelling finishes.
The thrilling playoff between Brooke Henderson and Lydia Ko at Sahalee in 2016 was among the most memorable golf moments of the year as was Danielle Kang’s brilliant 3-wood to the 72nd hole at Olympia Fields a year later.
And who could forget the extraordinary birdie Hannah Green made on Hazeltine’s notorious 16th hole on Sunday last year, trumped only by the nerveless up and down for par from a greenside bunker on the final hole?
While good fields will inevitably put on a good show – even on an ordinary golf course – golf is at its best when the venue matches the occasion.
The ‘new look’ KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has proved the point and there is a lesson for all Tours to learn from its success.
Commercial realities will always play a role in selecting venues for tournaments but the credibility of the host course must be an integral part of the decision making process.
At the most important tournaments especially, the field of play is a crucial element of the storyline and needs to be afforded the same respect as the placement of the corporate hospitality tents.