Not present more than 30 years ago, but Ocean – the golf course hosting the major PGA Championship 2021 this week – was still chosen as the Ryder Cup battlefield in 1991.

The Ocean Courtyard is seen from above, facing the sea.  Photo: PGAA

The Ocean Courtyard is seen from above, facing the sea. Image: PGAA

The PGA Championship is hosted by the Professional Golf Association of America (PGAA). They and an alliance of European professional golf organizations co-own the Ryder Cup – the most attractive team golf tournament in the world, between the US and Europe.

In the original plan, the 1991 Ryder Cup took place at PGA West, California under a contract between PGAA and partner Landmark Development Co. When he was promoted to PGAA CEO in 1987, Jim Awtrey was concerned about the success of the Ryder Cup four years later. Because the tournament took place in September 1991 in the desert, and in this time frame, the public is not very enthusiastic to watch the tournament because the weather can be as hot as 43 degrees Celsius, and the courts will not be changed until October. new grass.

In the past, stories about bringing the Ryder Cup to California have all revolved around television. That is only part of the truth. As top executive, Awtrey wants to put television at the heart of PGAA’s growth strategy. And in the Ryder Cup television revenue, the organization first got its share in the 1991 tournament. That year also recognized the station. NBC signed a contract to stream weekend games while USA Network Opening day recording.

In fact, radio BBC argued that the Ryder Cup was an international event and that the organizers had to pay a lot of attention to the European audience. They say the match point and viewing time are five hours apart which is already inconvenient for fans of the old continent. So if it’s eight hours off – in California, the tournament will be less likely to be viewed by many people. With a bargain from the Ryder Cup – 21.5 hours of prime time, the PGAA Board of Directors authorized Awtrey to arrange for the tournament to be delivered to the East Coast to solve the time zone issue.

Awtrey met Joe Walser – the co-founder of Landmark and also the one who introduced him into the golf industry. Awtrey listed the reasons for holding the 1991 Ryder Cup on the East Coast and suggested that the partner liquidate the contract.

But Walser shook his head.

However, the real estate entrepreneur came up with another initiative. Landmark just bought a project in South Carolina and the PGAA could take the Ryder Cup there. At first, some PGAA leaders doubted the feasibility of this move, due to the lack of time to build the pitch. Then they also agreed. So the Ryder Cup for the first time returned to a place that was not present.

Then, Walser called Pete Dye – the legendary architect who designed more than 100 golf courses – for help. When Dye arrived in Kiawah, he knew it was his duty to “sleep and taste honey”.

“I looked out over a patch of marsh, and they said ‘in two years, we’ll have the Ryder Cup here.’ I said nothing. Back then people couldn’t even walk on that land,” said Dye. tell later.

Panorama of Ocean Court on Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Ocean Course is one of the golf course design masterpieces of the late legendary architect Peter Dye.

One might judge the impossible for a golf project from the vast coastal sand dunes and marshes, but Dye quickly realized its potential. On one side, the land faces the vast ocean, the other side faces saltwater lagoons. “I was like a child getting candy. It was the most beautiful land I had to work on in the Northern Hemisphere,” Dye said.

He pointed Awtrey the potential pits. “See, Jim. The golf course will take a sharp turn to the right from there. Then we’ll build the green from the existing sand,” Awtrey recounts Dye’s point during his topographic survey. “Pete, I can’t see nothing but sand and swamp,” he replied to the chief architect of the infamous Stadium inside TPC Sawgrass – the golf complex and also the headquarters of the PGA Tour.

Then Dye charted and oriented the course, with nine holes counter-clockwise to the East, the rest of the same pattern but to the West. And Ocean has a total of 10 holes running along the Atlantic coast.

It was not until July 1989 that they broke ground after a long time applying for permits. Dye and his wife Alice moved to Kiawah to closely follow the project. Everything was going well until Hurricane Hugo passed, three months after the groundbreaking ceremony. It destroys most of the newly formatted things. After the storm, Dye had to use a motorized boat to travel on the construction site.

To keep up with the schedule, the construction team worked 18 hours a day. They replanted more than a million trees, restored sand dunes. Dye personally stood by the workers and did everything from driving bulldozers and uprooting shrubs to raking rough greens. The yard was planted with grass in July 1990.

In September 2020 of the same year, the Ryder Cup organizing partner from Europe wanted to survey the upcoming match point. At that time, everyone who had entered thought that Ocean could not keep up with the progress of the solution. From these comments, the European delegation decided to cancel the plan to see the stadium.

It’s not just the other side of the Atlantic that is skeptical. After the major Masters in 1991, the captain of the US team – Dave Stockton wanted the members to visit Ocean. Awtrey tried to convince Stockton to wait because the new yard was planted with grass and greens were not ready. But Stockton still came.

They did not expect that Bermuda grass grows quickly in the climate of the Southern United States. By September, Ocean was ready. US player Raymond Floyd called it “a masterpiece”.

Finally, the 1991 Ryder Cup on Ocean Stadium was also successful, with the nickname “War by the Sea”. There, German golfer Bernhard Langer missed the last putt on the last hole of the match on the closing day. After this phase, the US team regained the Ryder Cup with a score of 14.5 – 13/5, and ended the European team’s three-time winning streak.

McIlroy lifts the PGA Championship trophy at Ocean Stadium 2012. Photo: AP

McIlroy lifts the PGA Championship trophy at Ocean Stadium 2012. Photo: AP

After the Ryder Cup, Ocean Stadium hosted the PGA Championship for the first time in 2012 with the championship belonging to Rory McIlroy with a score of -13. He is eight strokes ahead of runner-up David Lynn – the final difference is still a record in tournament history since 1916. Not long before the tournament, the pitch was changed from Bermuda grass to Paspalum because of its more suitable properties for the coastal climate. sea.

Architect Dye died on January 9, 2020, at the age of 94. The 103rd PGA Championship – 2021 kicks off at Ocean Stadium from May 20.

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