The PGA Tour event was held last year in the same neighborhood as the PGA Championship, which siphoned off corporate dollars and fans. And organizers fretted over winter grass kill before the greens at Brown Deer Park sprouted this spring with better than usual luster.
When the snow melted and we got the first look at the golf course, it did not look good. It was brown and we didnt know if it was dead or not, tournament director Dan Croak acknowledged. But with the warm weather, we were able to see the plant was alive. It had just gone into hibernation and just needed to grow out.
Eight of the greens were closed at the public course in May and four in June while the course mended. The only problem that remains is the landing area on the 13th fairway, where some patch sodding was done.
With the greens greener, Croak is counting on the tournaments coffers following suit.
Without the PGA Championship looming as it did last summer, Croak said corporate support has been higher.
Still, he maintains the PGA Championship last year served his tournament well.
The 18th green chalets, for instance, are now enclosed and air-conditioned, an acknowledgment that Wisconsin golf fans now have firsthand knowledge of first-class treatment and expect more.
So I think the PGA helps us, Croak said. It generated interest in golf and let more companies see the value of entertainment. So, I see it as a good thing.
Its a fact of life. Were going to have that every five years.
Nearby Whistling Straits, where the PGA Championship was held last year, will host it again in 2010 and 2015. The Ryder Cup is going there in 2020.
The field at this years Milwaukee PGA Tour stop includes several players in the top 30 on the money list such as Bart Bryant, Ted Purdy and Scott Verplank. But it doesnt include Loren Roberts, whose string of 22 consecutive stops in Milwaukee will come to an end.
Roberts just turned 50, earning his eligibility on the Champions Tour. So, hell be at the Senior British Open in Aberdeen, Scotland, instead of Brown Deer Park, where he was one of only six players who have played in all 11 tournaments held at the public course.
Those with sponsors exemptions include Ryan Moore, the top-ranked amateur in the country before turning pro at the Barclays Classic this summer. In 2004, Ryan joined Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur and NCAA Division 1 titles in the same year.
Nick Gilliam, the 2001 NCAA champion and Green Bay native, also received a sponsor exemption.
Also returning is defending champion Carlos Franco, who posted four rounds in the 60s on his way to his second Milwaukee win last summer.
Franco is a notorious slacker when it comes to practicing, a habit that has prompted Vijay Singh to rib him about getting on the course more instead of fishing at his friends Wisconsin lake.
He says, Practice more, you need to practice more, Franco said last year. Maybe I need to practice more, but Id rather go fishing.
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