Watching the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship wrap up on Sunday created good vibes for Steve Jouzapaitis, the owner of Kemper Lakes. What was once one of America’s most prominent golf venues could be again, following a successful staging of a major championship.
“I expected more issues and things to address, but everything was so smooth,’’ said Jouzapaitis. “We got a lot of compliments from the PGA this week. I think we delivered.’’
Kemper’s tournament resume was created in its days as a public course from 1979 to 2004, when the four-year transition to a private facility began. The club hosted the men’s PGA Championship – its biggest event – in 1989.
Since turning private the club’s only tournament was the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship, which has been played each May. The success of this KPMG Women’s PGA Championship might change that.
Jouzapaitis was particularly pleased by an on-air comment by NBC announcer Dan Hicks, who called Kemper “one of the most spectacular golf venues in the world.’’
“Kemper Lakes is back,’’ said Jouzapaitis. “We got real good press, and we will keep our options open to host something in the future. We’re glad to be back in the spotlight, in front of the public.’’
First possibility might be the 2021 BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event for members of the PGA Tour. The Western Golf Association alternates sites of that event with Chicago courses hosting every other year. It’ll be at Aronimink, in Philadelphia, in September and then will be played at Medinah in 2019. No site is set beyond that, as BMW’s sponsorship agreement will expire after the Medinah tournament.
Frustration for Henderson
Brooke Henderson, the 21–year old Canadian, had another strong finish in the KPMG tournament – a tie for sixth – but she wasn’t a happy camper.
Henderson started the final round in second place, three strokes behind leader So Yeon Ryu, and was out of contention for good after making three bogeys in the first six holes. Her day got worse from there before it got better. At. No. 11 Henderson left a shot in the rough and broke her wedge in half when she slammed it on the turf. She got her lone birdie at No. 17 and finished with a 2-over-par 74.
In her previous three appearances in the tourney Henderson finished fifth in 2015 after getting into the field on a sponsor’s exemption, won the title in 2016 and finished as the runner-up last year at Olympia Fields.
Bring on the Crown
Final seedings as well as the players who will participate in the third UL International Crown competition will be announced today (MONDAY) but host Korea and the U.S. will be the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds. The eight-team event will be held at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon City from Oct. 4-7. Each team has four players, all chosen off the Rolex World Rankings at the conclusion of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The first International Crown was played at Caves Valley in Maryland in 2014 with Spain winning. The U.S. won the last competition in 2016 at Merit Club in Libertyville. Two members of that U.S. team – Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr – are already assured places on this year’s team and they’re excited about defending the title.
“It’ll be massive in Korea,’’ said Thompson. “We’ll get a lot of people out there watching us. It’ll be a great two weeks. Golf is huge over there.’’
Thompson plans to stay in Korea to compete in the Hana Bank Championship the week after the Crown.
“It’s a great format and a great event,’’ said Kerr. “It certainly has grown over the two times that we’ve had it, and being in Korea is going to take it to a whole new level. It’s going to be huge, huge, huge.’’
Too little, too late
Thompson, the best American player wth a No. 3 Rolex World Ranking, got it going on Sunday when she played holes four through seven in birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle. She made three bogeys after that and settled for a 68 and a tie for 15th.
The battle for the fourth and final spot on the U.S. team for the UL International Crown will apparently go to Michelle Wie, who held it going into the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She finished the 72 holes at even par after a 2-under 71 on Sunday and was in a tie for 28th. Danielle Kang, the tourney’s defending champion and Wie’s challenger for the final spot on Team USA, finished with a 73 and was two strokes behind Wie in the tournament and tied for 33rd.
The LPGA Tour resumes its season on Thursday with the $2 million Thornberry Classic, a 72-hole event in Oneida, Wis. The KPMG Women’s PGA Classic will be played next at Hazeltine, in Chaska, Minn. The last of the many major events held there was the Ryder Cup of 2016.
Next major for LPGA players is the Ricoh Women’s British Open from Aug. 2-5. Its purse of $3,250,000 is $400,000 less than that awarded after Sunday’s event at Kemper Lakes.