As the Senior PGA Championship fades to the rearview at Oak Hill, the 2023 PGA Championship will soon appear on the horizon.
But what about after that?
News 8 Sports Director Thad Brown sat down with Oak Hill club president Jim McKenna to discuss the club’s long term plans, it’s responsibility to Rochester and the reason behind the upcoming restoration to the world famous East Course.
Thad Brown: What is it like to be an Oak Hill member when this club has the “golf spotlight,” every once in a while?
Jim McKenna: It makes the hair on the back of you neck stand up a little bit. You’re so proud to be a member, and you realize how the Rochester community just comes together behind this. You’re just proud to be a part of it.
TB: Does this club feel responsibility, whether to itself or to Rochester, to continue to attract majors?
JK: We do. That’s very important to us, for both of those reasons. We spoke about it a lot this spring, and we talked about it a lot as a club, that this tournament at Oak Hill is bigger than any one member of the club. This week, we’re projected to generated $44.5 million of income into the Rochester community. Then later this summer, we’re shutting down the East Course on August 6th, and starting a renovation to the greens and bunkers on the East Course. It’s really to pay it forward to the next generation of members and the next generation of championships.
TB: What was the motivation behind the course restoration?
JK: These greens are about a hundred years old, and they’re on a real clay base which isn’t great for drainage. Over the years, the grass on the greens has suffered because of that. The other piece is that there were three holes done in the ’70s by a different architect. We really wanted to restore those to the original Donald Ross style of green, and style of hole, to bring the course back to the Donald Ross designs.
TB: How confident are you, in the new golf schedule, that Oak Hill will continue to have a place to host one of the elite events that it can host, the PGA Championship, the US Open or the Rider Cup?
JK: We’re confident that we’ll be hosting future tournaments. I think the one thing that we’ve learned this week is that the weather is beautiful in May in Rochester, New York. We have a wonderful relationship with the PGA of America. They’re a great partner. We also have a wonderful, new relationship with KitchenAide. It’s been so much fun having them around this week, and having them a part of it.
TB: We talked a lot about how this event is kind of a “trial run” for 2023. What has Oak Hill learned about putting on that event, after putting on this one?
JK: The championship grows every year, so ’23 is going to be a little bit bigger than it was this year. We know that we’re going to need to start a little bit earlier. Like any construction project, we know that we can plan ahead. We know that we’ll probably start putting some stone base down in the fall of the year proceeding, in 2022. We’re going to be able to be ready.
TB: As the world changes around Rochester, and as the club changes, how proud are you that this club continues to be a preeminent location for major championships, going on well-over 50 years?
JK: We couldn’t be more proud! I think about it all the time. It’s really a testament to what a golf community Rochester and the surrounding area is. Constantly, you worry about as the economy changes in Rochester, “what’s that going to do to Oak Hill?” But there are always people knocking on the door that want to be a part of Oak Hill. It’s tradition.