The PGA Championship doesn’t always match the excitement and interest of the other three majors in men’s golf, but the 100th edition of the event – held at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis – provided a different and memorable story.
“What a great week for golf,” said Chris Thomson, the director of golf at Wilderness Ridge.
It really was. Thomson was there. I was there, too, with my daughter Emma, a golf lover like her dad. We were at Bellerive for the first and third rounds, soaking it all in and soaking in sweat while loving every minute of it.
Thomson was there all week. He said it was hard not to get caught up in Tiger Mania as Woods made his weekend charge. Thomson also had the bonus of being in the room for the Champion’s Toast with PGA winner Brooks Koepka.
“I would say from my perspective that with Tiger at the top of the leaderboard all the way that the crowds were incredible and mostly pulling for him,” Thomson said. “Definitely nothing taken away from Koepka, but the crowds were just pulling for a Tiger win.”
Emma and I caught some good glimpses of Woods, but it was actually just as enjoyable for us when Tiger finished his rounds because about half of the crowd left the premises when he was done playing. We found bleacher spots behind the green at Nos. 6 and 16 – both par-3 holes – and watched several stars come through – Woods, McIlroy, Mickelson, Spieth and many others.
It was really hot, but I am not a stranger to August heat and humidity in St. Louis having grown up there. Great time with great company. And I lost a pound or two on top of that. Bonus.
Heck of a week for Koepka, too. The man can play.
“Even at the Champion’s Toast, Brooks acknowledged that the crowd was pulling for Tiger,” Thomson said. “Had to be a little tough, but he took it in a good way. Pretty amazing to only have four total wins on tour and three of them are majors.”
Nebraska pro represents well
Ryan Vermeer, director of instruction at Happy Hollow in Omaha, missed the cut at the PGA, but what an accomplishment just to be in the field and playing in the same group with John Daly.
Vermeer earned a spot by winning the PGA Professional Championship in Seaside, Calif. He is the first Nebraska PGA professional to capture that title.
“Vermeer has truly matured as a player,” said David Honnens, CEO of the Nebraska Section PGA. “He has always been a tremendous ball-striker, but his short game has enabled him to post some really great rounds. His scoring average this season in Nebraska PGA events is a staggering 67.5.”
Honnens added that Vermeer has been a great ambassador for the game in Nebraska and wherever he travels.
“He was a wonderful champion representing the 29,000 men and women of the PGA of America at our centennial championship this past month,” Honnens said. “Vermeer was asked to wear many hats during this championship, and we were very proud of the way he took time daily to spend with fans to sign autographs and do segments on Golf Channel even after missing the cut.”
I asked Vermeer for a quick tip to share with all of us hackers back home.
“The biggest thing is you’ve got to get your body moving,” he said. “I see too many people swinging their arms, trying to hit it with their arms and hands.
“The best golfers in the world use their body and synchronize everything up and don’t get too flippy with it. I struggle with it myself.”