The evidence that something big is going on at Sunriver Resort is easy to spot. Not only are there more than 300 professional golfers roaming the resort, but the Golf Channel cameras, ropes, and unmistakable buzz in the air are all dead giveaways that the PGA Professional National Championship is no ordinary golf tournament.
Greeted with spectacularly clear, warm Central Oregon weather and much to play for, the 312 club professionals competing this week at Crosswater and the Meadows Course for a chance to play in the 2017 PGA Championship have been in a noticeably good mood.
“I love this event,” said Craig Bowden, a former PGA Tour professional from Bloomington, Indiana. “It’s a great event for the club pros to come out and bring their families and get a chance to get their feet wet with some competition and try to play their way into the PGA Championship. You come out here and it's a real golf tournament. The ropes are up, Golf Channel is here, it gets you excited to get out and play and see where you’re at with your game and stay patient as long as you can.”
The first 36 holes of the PGA Professional Championship are now complete, with two rounds at Crosswater on Tuesday and Wednesday left to play. Add in countless practice rounds in the days before the PPC teed off Sunday’s first round, and the competitors have had plenty of opportunity to take in all that Meadows and Crosswater have to offer.
So far it appears that Sunriver Resort has been up to the challenge.
“This is the biggest championship we have to play for and this is a phenomenal facility,” said Josh Hillman, head professional at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Mass.
This marks the fourth time the Sunriver Resort has hosted the PPC (2001, 2007, 2013, and 2017), but each time it’s a little bit different for the professionals who travel from across the country to compete.
Since the last visit from the PPC pros, Meadows in particular has been the beneficiary of some significant improvements. In 2015, Sunriver completed a $450,000 project to renovate all 18 Meadows greens with a particularly hearty strain of bentgrass, called T-1. And in 2016, Sunriver finished a $425,000 project to renovate the bunkers at Meadows, giving Sunriver resort’s original course a new, dramatic appearance.
The improvements have made a difference.
Meadows played easier than Crosswater in relation to par in the first two rounds, certainly. But the goal for Sunriver Resort was to make Meadows a perfect complement to Sunriver Resort’s crown jewel. The pros at the PPC have only offered more evidence that Sunriver Resort’s goal has been reached.
“We played a practice round at Meadows on Friday and the greens are totally different than they were in 2013,” said Mark Sheftic, a teaching professional at famed Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, before the first round. “They re-did the greens and they’re firm. In 2013, Meadows was the course to go get a score. But now it’s hard to get the ball close to the pin because of how firm the greens are.”
How closely does Meadows now play to Crosswater?
“Crosswater is a fantastic golf course, still, but there’s not going to be any let up at Meadows like there might have been previously,” Sheftic added. “It’s going to be a great test on both golf courses.”
With play now complete at Meadows (each player has played one round at each course), the players who made the 36-hole cut have Crosswater on their minds. Always ranked among the top golf courses in the country by various publications, and a former host to PGA Champions Tour, USGA, and NCAA championships, Crosswater has over the years enjoyed plenty of praise.
But it’s always nice to hear that Crosswater was a worthy host for the PPC pros.
"Crosswater is a phenomenal golf course in just perfect shape," Hillman said. "It’s a bear. It’s a good golf course. You have to drive the ball well and leave it in good spots around the greens. But it's a fun course and it’s got a good look to it.”
Hillman did not make the cut, unfortunately. But Hillman, who traveled with his family to the tournament, managed to sing the praises of more than just the golf courses he played.
After all, for Hillman and his family, Central Oregon represented so much more.
“This whole area in Sunriver is amazing,” said Hillman, who did not make the cut. “We've had a blast out here this week. My wife Angie and Jake, we’ve been hanging out and exploring the area. I had never been out this way before. This is such a great tournament.”
Follow this year’s action at pga.com/professionalchampionship, and come out and enjoy the final two rounds of the PGA Professional National Championship. Spectators are welcome and admission is free.
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