Text: R.J. Weick
The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, a major championship in senior golf, is returning to Harbor Shores Resort and its 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in Benton Harbor, Michigan this May; once again bringing some of the game’s greatest players to compete on a course that is defined by its dramatic design and impact in the local region.
The championship, which is a 72-hole, stroke play format, will run the week of May 19 through May 24, 2020 at Harbor Shores, challenging players as the 18-hole layout traverses a diverse dune, hardwood, wetland, and ravine landscape. Recognized by the PGA Tour Champions and the European Senior Tour, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship invites eligible golfers to compete for a total purse of about $3.25 million with a winning share of about $585,000—and the title for one of the oldest major championships in senior golf.
“It is one of the few majors hosted on the seniors champion tour. I think they would regard it as the most coveted major for them at this point in their career,” said Joshua R. Doxtator, PGA professional, general manager at Harbor Shores. “We look forward to welcoming the players here and seeing them up close and personal at Harbor Shores.”
Inaugurated in 1937, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship is celebrating its 81st competition this year, which also happens to coincide with Harbor Shores’ 10th anniversary. The golf destination has hosted the event five times in as many years. The course, which opened in 2010, hosted the championship in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018; and is the planned destination for the future 2022 and 2024 competitions as well.
Throughout the years, the competition has brought top players like Roger Chapman, Colin Montgomerie, Rocco Mediate, and Paul Broadhurst to the Michigan course—and has the potential to draw other well-known golfers this year such as Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
“It is definitely a golf course that requires you to hit very precise approach shots into the greens. The golf course itself isn’t extremely long by major standards, but what it does—because of the green complexes and the difficult of them—is require you to hit very accurate shots into the greens to the different tiers or quadrants offered to the player. If you miss hitting it a little bit, it will definitely challenge you from a putting side of things,” Doxtator said.
“Someone said our greens are overly severe, but you definitely learn a lot as you play it more often. You learn where not to hit it and where you will be able to get away with a few here and there,” Doxtator added.
The creative vision of Nicklaus Design, Harbor Shores has been recognized for its design and environmental backstory since it opened in 2010. Both a transformative reclamation development and a meticulous, artful landscape design project, Harbor Shores is the result of tearing down more than three million square-feet of dilapidated buildings and removing about 140,000 tons of waste from Paw Paw River and the site. Each hole features a metal sculpture and hand-blown glass by Joshua Andres and Jerry Catania, respectively, as well as names derived from plants inherent to the area.
“Jack Nicklaus developed and created this unbelievable golf course property that meanders through 500 acres of what was once desolate, forbidden factory and land. It’s incredible to see it transform into what it is today. I think our celebration of this 10th anniversary and the commitment to the community that we have had in creating economic growth and development through jobs and tourism dollars,” Doxtator said.
“It’s all starting to come to fruition. It’s great to be a part of that, to see that, and ultimately see the best players in the world battle it out here in a town—Benton Harbor and St. Joseph—that has a population of 24,000 people,” Doxtator added.
Harbor Shores has long had a connection to its surrounding communities, such as giving back to the community by designating a portion of fees to maintain public areas in the Jean Klock Park, and in addition to its presenting sponsorship with Whirlpool and its brand KitchenAid, the Senior PGA Championship partners with local companies, such as in the creation of the Makers Trail 19th Hole.
“The PGA of America has an office on-site, year-round and working with them and local leaders, we have other partnerships that we utilize throughout the area and the region to help make the championship as successful as it is,” Doxtator said.
“There will be the Makers Trail out there with local craft breweries and distillers and places like that who participate in creating a unique experience for all the guests who are coming on site,” Doxtator added.
As the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship returns for the fifth time at Harbor Shores, Doxtator said one of the most exciting aspects is having the opportunity to share the property with the world.
“It is your opportunity to really showcase what you have, what you are able to provide—not only from an entertainment side—and ultimately provide coverage to more than 500 million households around the world. It allows us to tell our story and celebrate a decade of dedication to this community,” Doxtator said.
“It is important we do our best to engage every guest or spectator who comes on site and anybody who watches coverage to really understand the meaning of Harbor Shores and why it exists.”
Photo Courtesy PGA of America