Kerry Haigh has one of the industry’s thankless jobs. As the PGA of America’s managing director of championships and business development, he is responsible for course setup and conduct of the association’s major events. He rarely hears from players when things run smoothly, but when difficult decisions are required, as they were at the 72nd Senior PGA, on a Valhalla course in Louisville, Ky., that had received nearly twice as much rain as the average monthly total, criticism often is relentless.
You spend a great deal of time setting up a course so that players are tested in various aspects of their games. How frustrating is it when weather interferes with those aims ?
Weather is part of the game that we have to deal with for every championship. The stated yardage that we set up for the golf course for assumes reasonable weather, reasonable conditions. If weather does not permit that – be it wind, be it wet or whatever – we have in mind a plan that been formed over the number of times that you’ve seen the course. You have thoughts for what you would do for these contingencies. In many ways, a lot of those have come into play this week with the softness, the weather.
Is the decision to permit preferred lies the most difficult one a tournament administrator has to make?
It can be. For the first two days of this championship, clearly conditions were so wet, preferred lies was something we had to do for any play at all to take place. Obviously, once players are used to having preferred lies, I think certainly it is more difficult, or less appealing to the players, if you take away the preferred lies they have had for two days. In that respect, change is difficult for everyone.
Do players conveniently forget that the conditions are the same for everyone?
Nobody likes playing when there’s mud on the golf ball. But certainly we want to uphold and play by the Rules of Golf. . . . So whenever we can uphold the rules and play by the rules – not only here, but at every championship – it really is a last resort to play preferred lies. And though we all hate having mud on our ball, it’s certainly part of the game, and it’s part of the game for every player.