Sahalee loses PGA in 2010

The PGA of America is looking at the years 2012 through 2015 as possible times to return the PGA Championship to Sahalee in the wake of yesterday's decision to replace Sahalee in 2010.

"We plan to come back," said Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the Florida-based organization.

Awtrey said concern that the Winter Olympics in British Columbia in February 2010 would diminish the August golf tournament on the Sammamish Plateau and reduce revenue led to the decision to find a new site for the Olympic year.

No replacement site has been named, but it is certain to be in another part of the country.

Awtrey said, "We were concerned about the ability to market the Championship in the area when you've got the Olympics 200 miles away. It's a concern. Any analysis suggests that the Olympics became a threat."

He added, "There is no event that sells more in the marketplace than does the Olympics. It is the biggest there is in terms of corporate support."

The PGA's worry was that corporate money, including that from Northwest companies, would be spent at the Olympics rather than at Sahalee, where the sale of corporate hospitality tents and advertising are major sources of revenue.

Sahalee was awarded the 2010 PGA Championship in 1999 after getting rave reviews for its hosting of the 1998 Championship won by Vijay Singh. Vancouver and Whistler were awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics in the summer of 2003.

PGA spokesman Julius Mason said "a red flag went up" when Vancouver got the Winter Games.

Sahalee general manager Steve Boggs said club officials met with the PGA about 90 days ago and that the PGA delegation first brought up the concern after asking, "What do you guys think?"

Boggs said the PGA was told, "To be honest, we don't have any clue."

"Then they said, 'We think it could be a big issue and a big obstacle,' " Boggs said.

Awtrey told The Times yesterday, "Our target would be to bring the tournament back to Sahalee between 2012 and 2015."

Awtrey added, "We had a letter-of-intent to hold the tournament at Sahalee in 2010. We take that letter seriously. We intend to come back to Sahalee and Seattle. ... We believe in your community, we believe in Seattle and we plan to come back."

The tournament has sites through 2009, and the 2011 tournament has been awarded to the Atlanta Country Club. Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. — site of the 2004 PGA Championship — could replace Sahalee in 2010.

Boggs said he thinks the 2004 Summer Olympics probably reduced television revenue at last August's PGA Championship on the Wisconsin course.

Awtrey reaffirmed that his organization considers the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee a huge success.

"The players loved it," Awtrey said. "Look at the winner there: Vijay Singh. It was the first time he had won a major championship, and now he is the best player in the world. ... It was a beautiful week, and we crowned a great champion. There is no place we've been that the players enjoyed themselves more than Seattle."

Boggs said Sahalee's relationship with the PGA of America remains "incredibly strong."

In a prepared statement, Sahalee president Jack Calabrese said, "While we are disappointed that the 2010 PGA Championship will not be played at Sahalee Country Club, we cannot overlook the obstacles we would face with the Winter Olympic Games being conducted on our doorstep in the same year."

The PGA Championship is the last of the four majors in men's golf, following The Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open. The PGA of America, which conducts the Championship, is a different organization than the PGA Tour, which runs most national-caliber men's pro tournaments in the nation.

This year, the major golf event in the state will be the return of the PGA Champions Tour (previous called Senior Tour) to the Seattle area for the first time since 1995. The Greater Seattle Champions Classic will be played at the Tournament Players Course at Snoqualmie Ridge, Aug. 19-21.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or