Organizers say they have sold 94 percent of available tickets for next year’s event and that’s led them to increase the financial impact the weeklong tournament will have on the Charleston area next year to $193 million.
Because of The Ocean Course’s location — on the edge of a barrier island off the Atlantic Ocean — planners capped attendance at about 27,000 people per day, including golfers, caddies, support personnel and spectators. Tickets went on sale last year through an online registration system unique to all PGA championships. The results were a near sellout, leading forecasters at the College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis to increase their impact projections by about $8 million.
The economic study breaks down the impact like this: $92 million will come from the direct visitor spending; $26 million comes from labor income, which is calculated from 832 jobs; and $75 million from media exposure with more than 154 hours of planned TV coverage.
The strong ticket sales have enticed corporations to spend on hospitality with more than three-quarters of those opportunities accounted for. Both Warren and PGA Championship director Brett Sterba think the remaining corporate slots along the 17th hole will be snapped up as well, giving organizers about a year to structure the course and plan for the throng.
“We know how many people are coming from the corporate side, we know how many fans are coming,” Warren said. “That gives us almost a full year to plan that and get it done well. And that’s our goal.”
The likely last chance for tickets, which have not been available since online sales closed last winter, will come when the final putt drops in the 2011 PGA Championship.
“I put the over-under on three days,” Warren said, referring to how long it will take for the remaining tickets to be snapped up. He expects about 210,000 people onsite for the week.
The Ocean Course was built by famed architect Pete Dye for the 1991 Ryder Cup matches. In a memorable moment, Mark Calcavecchia shot 8-over par the last nine holes on Sunday to lose a 4-up lead, then teared up in the sand dunes when he figured he’d be the American goat. Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer of Germany saved Calcavecchia from that tag by missing a 5-foot putt on the 18th hole that gave the cup to the United States.
The layout had been largely left to alligators and strong-hearted tourists since then. It has hosted the World Cup of Golf, the now defunct Warburg Cup and, in its most high profile event since, the Senior PGA Championship in 2007.
Dye and his crew recently finished up some tweaks to the course, most notably fixing some dune areas where competitors’ balls sunk into the soft sand. The course is expected to played to around 7,600 yards for the championship, some 400 yards more than the Senior Tour faced four years ago.
Dye’s genius, Warren said, was constructing a layout that 20 years later could take on increased yardage and still remain one of the most challenging on the planet.
“It will be a very uniquely different kind of test for these players than anything they get on the regular (PGA) tour during the course of the year or any major championship that I can think of in the last 10 years,” Warren said.