The best golfers in the world are in St. Louis this week vying to be the one who will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
The 100th PGA Championship is taking place at Bellerive Country Club in west St. Louis County.
“It's like any massive project where you start out with a big picture plan and then you break the plan into pieces,” Mike DeCola explained to St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh this week.
DeCola is general chairman of the 100th PGA Championship and talked with Marsh about what it takes to put together such a large event. Toward the end of the conversation they also discussed the championship-making final three holes.
How did the process begin?
“We started off with a pretty big plan about three or four years ago,” DeCola said. “There's stuff that happens on our property that we have to plan for and manage around but then there are the myriad of things we have to coordinate with the local community, law enforcement, E.M.S., traffic and MODOT.”
“I've met people that have such a passion for making this region great and are bending over backwards to help make this event successful,” he said. “It's very very cool to see the community come together like this.”
What’s it like to work with the PGA?
“We're spending their money,” said DeCola of the resources Bellerive has from the PGA.
The PGA puts up money to construct the grand entrance and to organize the logistics park in Fenton.
“It's been collaborative from the beginning, [the PGA] wants our input,” he said.
“The only area where they have set standards but they've allowed us flexibility to execute against those standards is what happens inside the ropes.
“They want the rough a certain height, they want the first cut a certain height, they want the fairway a certain height, they want the greens a certain way and they just give us the specifications and then our superintendent Carlos Arraya and his team go out and execute to it.”
Where do the golfers stay?
“There's all sorts of ways that these guys like to live their lives and we try and accommodate all those different ways,” DeCola said. “There are a handful of guys that like to rent houses for the week and we had a committee that was very well run that identified properties that people were willing to rent out and then we handed that over to the PGA and they work with players’ agents on all that stuff.
“So some players are renting houses there are other people staying in one of several PGA headquarters hotels and I'm sure there are golfers out there staying with friends.”
What about Tiger Woods and the crowds?
“The issue that everybody has seen this year in every event [Tiger Woods] has played is he attracts a crowd and the crowd likes to follow him,” DeCola said.
But Tiger Woods isn’t the only golfer attracting attention.
“There was a [practice round group] of Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler and Justin Thomas and let me tell you what, they had a pretty big following around with them,” he said. “It's not just Tiger that attracts a crowd, it's a lot of other people and as those folks try and move around, to follow him, it's pretty hard.”
What advice do you have for watching the tournament?
“My advice to people who ask me about it is, I say, ‘Go two holes ahead of him and let him come to you. Then go two more holes ahead, let him come to you. Don't try and watch him on every hole. Try and watch him every other hole,’ and it would be much easier for people to have an enjoyable experience if they do that,” DeCola explained.
Why is it called Bellerive Country Club?
Bellerive Country Club is named after Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, a commandant for the French who commanded the area in the early 18th century.
“He came from a military family and served France well,” said Sharon Person, a professor of English at St. Louis Community College. “We’re talking about the early 18th century. There was no United States at this time and this whole region was called the Illinois Country, both sides of the Mississippi River."
Person explained that members of the club named it after Bellerive by secret ballot in 1910.
Marsh talked with Person about Louis St. Ange de Bellerive on Friday’s program.
What holes should we pay attention to?
“At Bellerive the final three holes are where the championship is decided,” DeCola said.
“No. 16 is about a 220-yard Par 3. It has a nice sized green but you have to hit it to the section of the green where the pin is. So that's a challenging hole, and you know for these guys 220 yards isn’t a tough shot, but hitting it to the right spot of the green brings in a different challenge.”
“Seventeen is a really cool Par 5 with a creek that runs down the entire right side, and not surprisingly the fairway slopes from left to right so put your ball in the fairway, maybe bringing it back into the fairway with a little bit of a draw so it sticks on the left hand side is the shot you want to make.
“And then from there if they're trying to get on in two, while 17 green is big again, like a lot of our greens, there are multiple sections to them and you better put your ball in the right section, you're looking at a three putt.
“Eighteen is a Par 4 dogleg left, not particularly long but you gotta cut it around the bunker that's well placed on the left side of the fairway, and then a string of bunkers on the right side of the fairway if your ball doesn't move left.
“So 18 is a pretty dramatic hole, again a big green pretty surrounded and protected by bunkers. This week it's protected by grandstands and the CBS broadcast booth in the back, so it'll be a really exciting hole to watch.”
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.