Passing On the PGA Championship Practice Rounds

Little ol’ Wisconsin is about to see some big boy golf.

In just two weeks, the 2015 PGA Championship will be played at Whistling Straits near Sheboygan. One of the “deepest international fields in golf”—as the PGA of America loves to boast—will bludgeon their golf ball against both competitors and Mother Nature along the coastal dunes of Lake Michigan. There it is; that’s my pre-game pump up speech.

The truth is, this is nothing new. Whistling Straits has hosted the PGA Championship twice before, and twice in the past 11 years. Over that period, Whistling is the only course to host twice. Unfortunately, that frequency can allow golf fans of Wisconsin a sense of “We’ve seen this before,” often accompanied by “I don’t need to see that again.”

Don’t do this. Regret will soon be walking up the driveway.

I’m speaking from experience here. Twice while growing up in Wisconsin I passed on tickets to major championship golf held in the Dairy State. Each time, regret slapped me in the face. The first time came back in 2010, when free Tuesday practice round tickets and Sunday final round tickets became available to me for the PGA Championship.

Watching golfers practice sounded comical to 18-year-old Sean. Why would anyone want to watch a golfer make a bunch of swings with no pressure, no significance and no scorecard to keep track of? I had not yet tapped my golf passion. Nowadays, watching Rory McIlroy golf his ball around a first-class golf course in pristine condition is a bit like sitting on the sideline as Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers through a 2-minute drill on a quiet, sunlit Lambeau Field. (Tiger Woods might be Brett Favre under that analogy).

To make matters worse, that Sunday round became golf history. Martin Kaymer beat Bubba Watson in a playoff, though the real story resided in Dustin Johnson grounding a club on the final hole in one of Whistling Straits’ 1,000+ bunkers, losing the lead and his first major title in the scorer’s tent.

It was the equivalent of Brandon Bostick fumbling away the Packers Super Bowl chances in January. I may have just reopened a scar or two in Northeastern Wisconsin, but the point is the event was the lead story on SportsCenter and is forever implanted in golf antiquity.

Many of my friends were there to see it. My shining memory is that I was not.

Just two weeks from PGA Championship week, the same thing is happening again. Like clockwork, an email arrived in my inbox earlier this week offering a pair of practice round tickets for the mid-August event. A similar offer might find you.

If the opportunity presents itself, golf writer Sean is begging you to go. Whistling Straits is Wisconsin’s premier golf course. It’s an absolute treat to play, walk and observe upon. Watching the game’s best pick it apart (or be picked apart) is an experience we are fortunate enough to revel in every few years.

The memories are all but guaranteed to happen. If you can help it, don’t let them come from Door County.