Golf's proud heritage, bright future in San Francisco
July 03, 2014
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- The WGC-Match Play Championship (2015), PGA Championship (2020) and Presidents Cup (2025) are all headed to TPC Harding Park.
San Francisco golf has a proud heritage. Now it has a bright future, as well.
Three of the game’s biggest events are headed to the City by the Bay: next year’s World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship, the 2020 PGA Championship and The Presidents Cup 2025. All three events will be played at TPC Harding Park, making it the first TPC course to host a major championship.
Major champions Johnny Miller, Bob Rosburg, Ken Venturi and George Archer were all born in San Francisco between 1926 and 1947. Miller told PGA of America President Ted Bishop that Harding Park was crucial to his development.
“The putting green at Harding Park is really where I became a great putter,” Miller said, according to Bishop. “As a kid, I loved going to Harding Park because you would see Ken Venturi, George Archer. I owe my development as a player to Harding Park.”
TPC Harding Park is the annual host to the San Francisco City Championship, one of California’s premiere amateur events. Venturi, Archer and seven-time LPGA major winner Juli Inkster are past champions of the event. The 1956 final between Venturi and E. Harvie Ward drew approximately 12,000 spectators. Though they were amateurs, Ward and Venturi were among the world’s best players when they dueled; Venturi finished second at that year’s Masters after holding the 54-hole lead, while Ward was a U.S. Amateur and British Amateur champion.
Ward had won the previous year’s City while Venturi was fulfilling military obligations. Venturi told Ward on the first tee of their final match, “Harvey, I’ve come to take my city back,” according to the San Francisco City Championship’s Web site. Venturi fulfilled his prophecy, beating Ward, 5 and 4. Venturi’s father, Fred, was the head professional at Harding Park; Ken Venturi holds the course record of 59 and eagled 17 of the 18 holes in his lifetime.
Miller said Harding Park was the, “prized gem that everyone could play.”
That changed by the late 20th century though. A San Francisco Chronicle story said, “weeds, clusters of daisies and splotches of dirt came to characterize this once-pristine layout.” The one-time Bay Area gem was used as a parking lot for the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. One local told Bishop, “There was a point in time … where we just hoped that (Harding Park) would get mowed for the City Championship.”
Sandy Tatum, who won the NCAA golf championship while attending Stanford and is a former USGA president, is regarded as the visionary behind TPC Harding Park’s rejuvenation, which was showcased to the world when the 2005 World Golf Championships-American Express Championship and The Presidents Cup 2009 were held at the course. TPC Harding Park also is site of the First Tee of San Francisco.
“Without Sandy’s character and the respect that he commands in the game of golf, coupled with his San Francisco political savvy, TPC Harding Park golf course, its clubhouse and its First Tee affiliation would not have been possible,” Tatum’s friend and fellow Stanford alum, Tom Watson, said.
The San Francisco City is a match-play event. The world’s premiere professional match-play event will be held at TPC Harding Park on April 27-May 3, 2015. The tournament will feature a new format next year, with the field starting in 16 four-player pods; the top player will advance to a 16-man bracket. This round-robin format will provide more golf during the first three days and ensure each player plays at least three matches.
“If you’re a Steve Stricker fan or a Bubba Watson fan or a Tiger Woods fan, you’re going to be able to follow your favorite player for three days hoping that he makes it into the round of 16,” Finchem said.
This is the second WGC event to be played at TPC Harding Park. Tiger Woods defeated John Daly in a memorable playoff at the 2005 World Golf Championships-American Express (now Cadillac) Championship.
The Match Play Championship will be followed in 2020 by the PGA Championship, which will be played in consecutive years at two of the country’s premiere municipal facilities: New York’s Bethpage State Park in 2019 and TPC Harding Park the following year. This will be the first PGA Championship held in the Bay Area and just the fifth in California. The 1977 PGA at Pebble Beach Golf Links, won by Lanny Wadkins, is the only previous PGA held in Northern California.
The Presidents Cup will be played at Harding Park in 2025, completing a trifecta of prestigious events at the course.
“We’re very proud of this collaboration,” said San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee. “It’s historic in many, many ways.”