Milwaukee's PGA event between a rock and a hard place

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Michael Hunt
Friday, July 17, 2009
— One of the qualities of our PGA event is its Cinderella factor. One day Brown Deer is a lovely public course in the middle of a county park, the next it is adorned with all the pro-golf accoutrements. And like the humble girl from the folktale, it never loses its graciousness.

But unless a dramatic plot twist occurs, midnight is going to strike.

The fact that the ball gown was a little more threadbare Thursday for the first round of the 2009 US Bank Championship reflected the urgency.

The pastoral spot by the pond where a couple of gigantic sponsor tents once stood is now occupied by the media trailer.

The new Buick models typically lined up outside the 75-year-old clubhouse where Jack, Arnie and Tiger once took refuge are gone. So are most of the sponsors.

But on a beautiful 70-ish afternoon when the breeze was delightful to all except the ones driving into it, you found yourself standing by the 10th tee where crowd favorite Rocco Mediate was about to begin his day and thinking:

There’s got to be a way to keep this thing going.

Jerry Kelly and Steve Sticker say they have a plan, and bless ’em if they do, but like a dog chasing its tail, the dilemma goes something like this:

Move it out of the British Open week, and the PGA would say, “OK, show us the money.” And if the two local heroes took it to one of the Fortune 500 companies around here, it would respond, “OK, show us a date.”

After shooting a first-round 69, Kelly seemed almost as happy with his save-the-tournament reaction among fans. “It’s been great,” he said. “It’s nice to know they appreciate it. I feel like we owe it to them, to get it done.”

Over by the eighth fairway, Glenn Brookshear, 64, was among a gallery of about 50 following the leaders. “It’s hard to tell on a Thursday,” he said of the smallish crowd. “I’ve got my fingers crossed for the tournament. I hope they keep it going year after year after year.”

Speaking to the down-hominess of the event, Brookshear said one of the caddies was staying with his family. He talked about how Carlos Franco and his caddie spread goodwill to the point where the golfer allowed a youngster to hit one of his practice balls.

“What does it cost the tour for one Calloway ball? Everyone walked away upbeat from that,” Brookshear said.

And at 10 minutes past noon, just before Mediate teed off, Bill Murray-esque playfulness was coming from the Tiger tormentor. “You guys are stalking me, get them out of here,” Mediate said with a wink to his sizable following.

The grandstands were fairly empty at the 18th, but not so much at the ninth at midday.

“That’s probably because Kelly and me were playing back-to-back,” Mark Wilson of Menomonee Falls said after shooting a 68. “They were there for the locals.”

Some of the out-of-town golfers mentioned to Kelly that they had expected a large crowd, but the Madisonian set them straight.

“I tell them Milwaukee is a working town,” Kelly said. “You can expect more on the weekend. I hope everybody makes it a nice, long weekend with great draws Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

Who knows, this might be your last chance, fairy tales being what they are. Another way to look at the last three rounds for ’09 would be along the lines of a new start for a tournament that deserves to stay out of the traps.

Last updated: 10:55 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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