Benton Harbor is becoming the semi regular home of the Senior PGA Championship.
The PGA of America and Whirlpool announced Thursday that the Senior PGA Championship will not only return to the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in 2014 but also 2016 and 2018.
"This is probably the worst kept secret," Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig joked as he delivered the news inside the Harbor Shores Clubhouse.
Whirlpool's KitchenAid Brand has served as the Title Sponsor for the Senior PGA Championship and as part of the new deal, KitchenAid will continue to do so through 2018.
Harbor Shores hosted the 2012 Senior PGA Championship and clearly it was a big success.
"Just impressive what has happened here over the course of the last few years," PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua explained. "To allow golf and the PGA of America to play a role in that is really great."
Opened in 2010, Harbor Shores is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course in Benton Harbor. Holes 7, 8 and 9 overlook Lake Michigan in the scenic parks area.
"It's pride in the community to be able to show the people around the world what a great place in the world that we have here." says Fettig, whose Whirlpool Corporation is based in Benton Harbor.
Berrien County District 4 Commissioner Mamie L. Yarbrough was born and raised in Benton Harbor. She was glowing on Thursday as the announcement was made.
"It's amazing," Yarbrough says as she looks over the signature art work that defines each hole with a description of each of Jack Nicklaus' 18 major victories. "I think of this property when it was factories and all. I remember everything about it."
"I'm not a golfer but when I ride by here and I see this beautiful green and these beautiful statues and sculptures and all the people that are here--I'm just thrilled. I just didn't think this is something that would happen in my lifetime."
Upon opening in 2010, the PGA announced it would host the most prestigious senior golf event in 2012 and 2014. Thursday's announcement adds two additional dates in 2016 and 2018. The event is traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend.
The Senior PGA Championship began in 1937 in Augusta, Georgia--home of the Masters. From 1982-2000, it was held at the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Since 2000, however, its been at a different golf club each year with only Valhalla hosting it more than once during that time frame (2004, 2011). That makes Harbor Shores hosting the event four times in seven years ('12, '14, '16, '18) unprecedented for this era.
"You think about a community to host a major championship four times--that's rare regardless," says Jeff Hintz, the Championship Director of the Senior PGA Championship. "Let alone in a 50 year span but to do it in seven years, it's unheard of."
It's something that's great for the community and also an advantage to those that will participant in the tournament.
"The fact that the players are going to come back here three more times, as a player myself, I think it would be nice to go to a course that I knew something about," Harbor Shores General Manager Ross Smith says. "For the players it's great, for Harbor Shores it's great and for the people around this area to be able to see these guys play is fantastic."
The Harbor Shores campus continues to grow. Currently, a $114 million hotel, marina, and residential area is being developed with the hotel set to open by the start of the 2014 Senior PGA Championship.
“We are delighted to bring the Inn at Harbor Shores to the banks of the St. Joseph River,” said Jeff Noel, President of Harbor Shores. “It is on track for a late spring opening and the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid will be the perfect setting for the grand opening."
The Senior PGA Championship is already looking for volunteers for next year's event. If you would like to signup, visit SPGA2014.com