Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Article excerpt

The Professional Golfers Association of America has spent recent weeks months, actually setting up shop at Bellerive in preparation for its Senior Championship that begins Thursday morning. This is a big deal.

Some may say this is a golf thing, a West County thing or a country club thing. And some of you would be very right and very wrong at the same time.

Certainly it's a golf thing when the Senior PGA Championship represents one of the Champions Tour's four majors. Along with prestige, the silver 36-pound Alfred S. Bourne Trophy and a possible hernia comes with the title.

Since directions take one west of I-270 into pastoral Town and Country just a bladed wedge from Creve Coeur, there's no arguing geography.

And because Bellerive this week becomes only the third facility to host all four revolving men's championships in American professional golf, the event indeed bestows further cache upon a place that already has seen Gary Player, Nick Price and Peter Jacobsen emerge as champion.

Those elements represent the event's framework, perhaps even its pull to many. However, what returned major professional golf to the region has more to do with an ambitious initiative that has united those who run a private country club and the local PGA section with those who supervise schools and run youth programs within the city. It is an intersection where comfortable cliches fade and organizers believe something more lasting will rise.

In their December 2010 presentation at PGA of America headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla., Bellerive and the Gateway PGA emphasized this week's event would help crystallize an ambitious program intended to impact city youth through golf.

The program was christened PGA REACH (Recreating, Education, Awareness, Community and Health) and the concept has since become the blueprint for the PGA of America Foundation, which plans to use future championships as a means to create similar legacies in other cities.

The local PGA section could have stuck to hotel availability and corporate involvement during its presentation for the 2018 PGA Championship and, by extension, this week's event. Such a strategy probably would have failed.

"I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that REACH played a pivotal role in getting the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship," says Josh Riley, executive director of the Gateway PGA and one of the program's authors. "I don't think the tournament is here without it."

Working with several community organizations and the St. Louis Public Schools, the Gateway PGA Foundation plans to make golf available as part of the high school physical education curriculum. A pilot program already is in place at Clyde C. Miller, where two classes have received short-game instruction. The section foundation is also offering summer internships at area courses, where as many as 19 students may be exposed to caddy programs, maintenance, landscaping and food service.

The program includes an educational component that requires students to sign a "contract" committing them to class work as well as golf. The larger purpose is to enhance graduation rates among city high schools.

This is no drive-by, feel-good program. It can't be. Hosting the Senior PGA Championship is a derivative of Bellerive staging the centennial PGA Championship in 2018. …

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