PC Snoqualmie named latest PGA tour stop

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SNOQUALMIE - Some of the biggest names in golf will finally walk the links of the Snoqualmie Ridge TPC (Tournament Players Course).

The PGA Tour (Professional Golfers' Association) announced on Aug. 11 that the Snoqualmie course will host a week-long PGA Tour event from Aug. 15-21 in 2005, with two subsequent events scheduled for 2006 and 2007 as well. The one-week event, called The Greater Seattle Champions Classic, will start out with a NFL Alumni Association benefit game, followed by a Pro-Am event that will proceed a three-day tournament weekend. The schedule will be capped on a Monday with an event by First Tee, a charitable arm of the PGA.

"I think our players are going to love that golf course," said Rick George, president of the PGA Champions Tour. "We are excited to go out there."

PGA Tour stops are major professional sports events that host the biggest names in golf and garner television coverage on both cable and network stations.

The events also are major fund raisers. Since 1938, tour events have raised $820 million for charities and the main beneficiary of the Snoqualmie event will be The Heart Institute at Virginia Mason Medical Center.

The Snoqualmie event will be a Champions Tour (formally called the Seniors Tour), meaning that only players who are 50 and up will be eligible to play. Those who will turn 50 by next year include legends such as Greg Norman and Curtis Strange. There should be 78 players at next year's event.

Event officials said the PGA tries to make the event as fan-friendly as it can, allowing multiple chances to interact with players during their games.

"It's a much more laid back tour," said Fuzzy Zoeller, a professional golfer who spoke via telephone at the Aug. 11 news conference. "The guys [golfers] seem to have a lot more fun."

A PGA Tour stop has been a long-awaited announcement for Snoqualmie. Securing such an event was part of the original mixed-use final plan for the Snoqualmie Ridge development and the course was made larger for that purpose with extra space for fan seating. There are also homes along some of the fairways where residents will be able to watch the action from their back yards.

"We are very excited about doing it," said Dave Dorothy, vice president/general manager of Snoqualmie Ridge.

Getting a tour requires a major sponsor, however, and one has been hard to find. While the PGA made a commitment last week to the Snoqualmie stop, no official word has been made about the title sponsor of the Snoqualmie event. Wells Fargo will sponsor the Pro-Am tournament, but a title sponsor, which would help give out more than $1 million in prize money, is yet to be named. PGA Tour officials said, however, the event is set to go.

"The tournament is on solid ground," said Jeff Adams, PGA Tour spokesman.

From Snoqualmie's end, the work is just beginning. Snoqualmie officials said they admittedly have a lot of work to do to prepare for the thousands of people who attend PGA Tour events. Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher said the city will welcome the event with open arms as long as it is compensated for any services it provides.

"We will maximize other people's money," he said.

Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaffer said he has started working with officials who oversaw a PGA Tour event that was held at the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish in 1998. He said the logistics of getting people to and from the course will be a major challenge, especially in a community as small as Snoqualmie that does not have the infrastructure to house and handle large groups of people.

Schaffer believes a vast majority of fans, volunteers and staff for the event will have to be bused in from a nearby community. For the Sahalee event, visitors were given transit instructions along with their tickets to assure few people tried to drive to the event. Schaffer said there will be extra support to police the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood, which would be prime parking for those wanting to skip the shuttle.

Despite the challenges, Schaffer said the city should expect to get a lot of help from the PGA Tour who want to make the experience as enjoyable as it can for everyone to ensure a stop can come again in years following.

"I don't think it [Snoqualmie event] will be a nightmare for any body," Schaffer said.

Event organizers said the areas that host PGA Tour stops are given a level of exposure that they probably have never had before. Local businesses should get a lot of traffic, an opportunity Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Lynham said the community should take advantage of.

"Of course, it's a fantastic opportunity for Valley businesses," she said. "That being said, given that many tourists and support crew for the event will have to stay at hotels west of here, the business community will need to market pretty aggressively to get those people to come to our restaurants and our shops. The chamber will do everything we can to help our members get noticed."

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