BENTON HARBOR -- Next summer, one of the great events in American golf will be right in your backyard, when the Senior PGA Championship comes to Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich.
"I don't think they realize the magnitude of what's coming," Harbor Shores general manager/director of golf Ross Smith said. “Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Freddy Couples -- these are names that we've all grown up with. And trust me, they still play really, really good golf."
Putting together a major championship takes major preparations.
"We needed about 1700 volunteers from the surrounding area,” Smith said, “and the word we got back from the PGA is that our volunteers signed up faster than any event they've ever had. So we've already got 1700 volunteers from all around, especially quite a few from South Bend."
Preparations actually started six months ago, from collecting those volunteers to constructing new buildings to re-purposing existing ones. But it will not include any changes to the actual course itself. The PGA came in and basically said, "Looks good!"
"I kind of thought he might lengthen the golf course out a little bit, but he thinks it's just just the way it is,” Smith said. “I will say that the golf course, at the length that it plays, is a lot tougher than you would think.
“I've been thinking about what the winning score might be, and I really don't think they're going to shoot all that low here."
In fact, nobody has ever shot under par at Harbor Shores. The course record is set at 71 -- par -- by Graeme McDowell, and he was at the top of his game when he did it. That's because that was just days after winning the 2010 U.S. Open.
"For a golf course this young to have such a major event added is a real feather in the cap for the Harbor Shores project,” Smith said.And a real opportunity for local golf fans.