Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America, once again will bring his expertise to the LPGA Tour when he sets up the course for KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, June 9-12.
SAMMAMISH — Kerry Haigh, renowned in world golf circles for his work in setting up courses for the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, is enjoying being back where it all began.
Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America, once again will bring his expertise to the LPGA Tour when he sets up Sahalee Country Club for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, June 9-12.
Even in a year when Haigh will help set up the course for the Olympics, along with setting up the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, he is happy to have the Women’s PGA Championship on his busy schedule.
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
When: June 9-12, with practice rounds June 7-8.
Where: Sahalee Country Club, Sammamish
Purse: $3.5 million (second highest on LPGA Tour).
Defending champion: Inbee Park
Favorite: Lydia Ko, 19, the world’s No. 1 player, has won the past two LPGA majors.
Tickets: Single-day adult tickets are $10 for practice rounds, $20 for the first two rounds and $25 for the final two rounds. Tickets for the week are $75. Juniors 17 and under are free with a paid adult. To purchase or for more information, go to kpmgwomenspgachampionship.com
Not only does it reunite him with Sahalee, where he set up the course for the PGA Championship in 1998, it also has him working again with the LPGA Tour, with which he worked for four years after first coming to the United States from Europe.
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The reunion for Haigh, 57, began last year when the LPGA joined forces with the PGA of America to turn the LPGA Championship into the Women’s PGA Championship.
“I have a lot of great memories from the 120-plus events I did with the LPGA,” said Haigh, who not only set up courses for the LPGA but also was tournament director and a rules official. “I learned a heck of a lot setting up for women’s golf in those four years, and then to get back and be involved, it almost came full circle, 20-some years later.”
The affable Haigh, who speaks with a British accent, married a former LPGA Tour player, Denise Strebig. He said the LPGA Tour has changed greatly since he left in 1988, most notably the players.
“The fitness, the quality of the play and how they look and perform just continues to get better,” Haigh said. “They’re doing all the things you hear and read about, the nutrition, the fitness. The way they hit the ball, the stretch routines … amazing.”
For Haigh, coming back to Sahalee is like meeting up again with an old friend. He spent a lot of time here to get ready for the 1998 PGA Championship.
“I remember how the greens play and the design, and I still have a lot of the records, golfing-wise, that I had in 1998. But even so, at any championship we try to go in with fresh eyes. We look at it again as if we haven’t done it there before, but we certainly remember that it was a great championship in 1998.
“It was a really good test. It was interesting, and unique to most anything else most of the players see, year in year out, week in and week out.”
Haigh, who was a scratch golfer by age 17 while growing up in England, was hired by Kemper Sports in 1989 to be the tournament director for that year’s PGA Championship. It went so well that the PGA of America hired him after that championship.
Sahalee might bid on 2021 Solheim Cup
Sahalee Country Club might be interested in hosting the 2021 Solheim Cup but hasn’t made a decision on whether to make a bid to get the event, Sahalee general manager Jim Pike said.
“Our championship committee hasn’t decided yet, but it is on the target list of potential future championships,” said Pike, who added that Sahalee members will get the final vote if the committee recommends to seek the Cup.
No action will be taken until after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is played at Sahalee from June 9-12.
The Solheim Cup is the biennial golf competition between the best professional women’s golfers from the United States and Europe. It is the women’s equivalent of the men’s Ryder Cup.
The inaugural Cup was held in 1990, and the driving force behind it was Karsten Solheim, the late PING club designer and manufacturer who grew up in Seattle, graduated from Ballard High School and attended the University of Washington.
The 2017 Solheim Cup will be played at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa from Aug. 18-20, and the 2019 Cup will be in Scotland.
Craig Smith, special to The Seattle Times
Haigh said he never has a score in mind when he sets up a course.
“I think the intent for every championship is to make it so the players enjoy the golf course, are challenged by the golf course, and hopefully the setup makes them think,” he said. “Obviously, the dominating factor here are the trees. Most of us have never come to venues like this that is so visually intimidating and very difficult to play, so positioning is crucial to the way they have to play it.”
The weekend before tournament week, Haigh will chart possible hole locations, but each day’s setup is dependent on the weather, and he said final decisions are “literally 45 minutes to an hour before each day’s tee off.”
“In our mind we’ll have a plan, but the plan will change, say if the wind’s from the north as it is today,” Haigh said. “You’ve got to adapt each morning depending on the wind strength and direction.”
Haigh said he does not have a favorite event. He enjoys them all, and his goal never changes.
“When I go to any championship, my hope and focus is that it is the greatest championship that we’ve ever put together, and everyone leaves thinking what a great week it was,” he said. “Anytime you can do that at any venue, and in any championship, it makes you feel like, ‘Wow, that was a great week.’ ”