The Wyndham Championship at Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club is one of only a handful of PGA Tour events to reach a milestone in longevity. With a popular host golf course and an important date on the Tour schedule, the Wyndham now attracts impressive fields and large crowds from around the Piedmont Triad.
By Brad King
GREENSBORO (August 13, 2014) — Only five PGA Tour events have ever celebrated a 75th anniversary. Thursday morning, that number grows to six.
The Wyndham Championship — now annually contested the week prior to the start of the PGA Tour’s FedExCup Playoffs on the Donald Ross masterpiece at Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club — was founded in 1938 and is the sixth-oldest event on the PGA TOUR excluding the major championships.
Only the BMW Championship, RBC Canadian Open, Valero Texas Open Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am — which is just one year older than the Wyndham Championship — have been in existence longer.
Consider as well the number of major, golf-loving markets that have failed to maintain a PGA Tour event. Many have come and gone in the past 75 years.
“You know what Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, Seattle — you know what they all have in common? They don’t have a PGA Tour event. But Greensboro, North Carolina does,” said former PGA Tour player and current radio announcer John Maginnes, who is also a member at Sedgefield CC.
The Greensboro gathering throughout the years has been called the Greater Greensboro Open, the K-Mart Greater Greensboro Open, the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic, the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro and, since 2006, the Wyndham Championship.
The event enjoys a proud 75-year history that includes inviting Charlie Swifford to be the first African-American in the Old South to play in a PGA Tour event, to being the only regular season PGA tournament contested on a course originally designed by Donald Ross.
With its golf course and beautiful old Tudor clubhouse, Sedgefield shows well on TV. The event is broadcast to more than 900 million households — all over Asia including China — 220 countries in every continent.
“There’s not another event in the Piedmont Triad that does that,” said Tournament Director Mark Brazil. “(The Wyndham Championship) is the window into the Piedmont Triad for the rest of the world.”
The new date on the PGA Tour has brought in some sterling names the past few years.
This week’s field includes former Wyndham champions Brandt Snedeker (2007), 2012 U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson (2011), defending champion Patrick Reed, Davis Love III (1992, 2006), Rocco Mediate (1993, 2002) and 2008 champion Carl Pettersson, 2011 FedExCup champion Bill Haas, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Hideki Matsuyama, Stewart Cink and World Golf Hall of Famer Fred Couples — along with 2014 PGA Tour winners Brian Harman, Matt Every, Chesson Hadley, Scott Stallings and Steve Bowditch.
“Players love it here because of the way they are treated here and the golf course,” said Maginnes. “A lot of them who don’t come simply can’t fit it into their schedule.”
“(Sedgefield) is awesome,” said Cink, a former Georgia Tech standout who won the Open Championship in 2009 following a playoff with Tom Watson. “The greens are some of the best we have putted on all year and the layout is terrific.”
In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Wyndham Championship has welcomed back several former winners during tournament week. World Golf Hall of Famer Lanny Wadkins, 1959 champion Dow Finsterwald, 1958 champion Bob Goalby as well as two-time champions Rocco Mediate and Davis Love III have all returned to Greensboro this week for the anniversary celebrations.
The Wyndham Championship counts 17 World Golf Hall of Famers among its former winners including Sam Snead who won the tournament eight times and is the golfer for whom the tournament trophy is named, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros.
In 2011, McConnell Golf founder and CEO John McConnell — whose company owns Sedgefield — invited two of his sons to play in the tournament’s Pro-Am. The trio selected Webb Simpson as their professional.
McConnell and his boys had all kept up with Simpson’s golfing success from his young childhood days in Raleigh and they were excited about following what they knew would be a bright future on the PGA Tour.
Unfortunately during the Pro-Am that day, Simpson was hitting the ball all over the course and his errant drives found a number of bunkers throughout the round. Afterward, McConnell told hiss sons it was highly doubtful Simpson would make the cut that week based on his play.
However, as history tells us, Simpson’s game soon jelled and he won his first PGA tournament at Sedgefield that week, followed the following year by his first major championship, the U.S. Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club.
“That reminded me,” McConnell said, “to focus my effort on picking stocks instead of tournament winners.”
McConnell Golf was founded in 2003 with the acquisition of Raleigh Country Club and today McConnell Golf owns and operates seven premier private clubs in North and South Carolina including Sedgefield Country Club Ross Course and Dye Course in Greensboro, N.C., TPC at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, N.C., Old North State Club in New London, N.C., Treyburn Country Club in Durham, N.C., The Reserve Golf Club in Pawleys Island, S.C., and Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton S.C. Most importantly, every one of the McConnell Golf facilities is top ranked in their states.
The 2014 Wyndham Championship continues a busy year of tournament action at McConnell Golf venues. A total of 15 golf championships are being contested across the Carolinas this year. Clubs from the select McConnell Golf stable hosted professional tournaments, collegiate championships and elite junior competitions.
For McConnell and his company, the Wyndham is much more than simply a golf tournament.
“The Wyndham Championship is an important event for McConnell Golf as he allows our combined staff from all clubs to showcase their talents in helping to host such a large event,” said McConnell. “It gives us an excellent venue for our employees to develop teamwork, gain new skills, and developed confidence that they can use at their own clubs.
“Having a PGA event at one of our courses certainly provides improved brand awareness for our company and club operations,” McConnell said. “It is indeed a fun week for all of us at McConnell Golf and we are constantly striving to enhance each year’s experience for our members and fans.”