Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin ~ an event review

It was a warm, sunny, breezy Wisconsin morning, a perfect day for a golf tournament (more so as a spectator than the actual golfers I'm sure) . We had arrived the day before in Milwaukee, where we had hotel reservations for Friday and Saturday nights. We splashed in the kiddie pool and played video games in the game room on Friday until all of our eyes got sleepy. We learned what it was like to try and sleep in the same room as a family of 4. I hope to not have to do that again for a long time.

At 5:45am I heard the door close to the room next to us. It was my Mom and Step-Dad, Rick leaving to get to the tournament early. They are both golfers themselves, and often attend tournaments like this when they are nearby.  If I can remember correctly, they both like Phil Mickelson. We got ourselves and the kids ready and arrived at Whistling Straits a couple hours later. The air was clean and the breeze was refreshing. We have had so many hot days in the Midwest lately, so the win was a welcome surprise.

We parked and got the kids in the strollers and made our way up to the course. I will advise a bit more regarding strollers later, but one thing I noticed was GRAVEL. Lots and lots of gravel. Gravel is by no means something you want to deal with when you have strollers. The only saving grace was one of our two strollers was a jogging stroller. The bigger wheels and suspension of that stroller made it much more pleasant for my husband.  They also had "pedestrian walkways" marked, although the walkways were really just areas that the cars couldn't drive or park, which wasn't always a rule that was followed. Many places, cars were parked there and we were forced to walk through the gravel anyhow. But we made our way to the course and PGA Town Center in just a few minutes where I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and elaborate tents and exciting activities.  You could purchase just about ANYTHING golf wise at the Golf Shop. It seriously is the size of a Department store!

Jonah got a shirt and a ball, I think he looks pretty good! ;-)

In the PGA Fan Experience tent, there were a few places to putt the ball, a place to take photograph with a faux background that was to represent the massive amount of spectator's at the event, and a few other fun things. There truly wasn't too much for the kids to do except for Jonah to putt around, which he did, and loved. Lily tried to run off with the ball's, but that is typical of a 1 year old.  The Learning Center was cool, and totally the place to be if you were a serious golfer. They had numerous stations set up where a pro would critique your swing and help you improve it. This too, was clearly a more adult, or MUCH older kid activity, but one of the nice men snuck Jonah in and let him hit the ball a few times, gave him some pointers, and Jonah actually paid attention. 

::warning. rant. read at your own risk::

There was also a tent with some fancy BMW's in it. I wouldn't know what was actually in there except from what I could see from the outside.  The BMW Security guy who manned the entrance was not very pleasant when Lily and I were within his visual range and quickly ordered me to "Take that cup away from her, I don't need her spilling it in there." You see, Lily was climbing up the 4-5 steps that lead up to the huge platform that went along the perimeter of a few of the tents. This particular set of stairs was located directly in front of the entryway to the BMW tent. This judgmental man jumped the gun a bit too fast. I wasn't going to let Lily go in the BMW tent anyhow. She wasn't even to the top of the stairs before he barked at us like that! I felt it was completely unacceptable to act like that toward me or anyone that would have similarly been in my position. Now, I understand that BMW is a big deal to this particular event, heck maybe even to the the entire PGA; but I warn you now, don't let your kids anywhere near the BMW tent. Lesson learned "Don't go with 5,000 feet of a fancy car with a toddler. Those in charge of said fancy cars are cranky and mean."

::end rant::

We then went to find something to eat before embarking on our excursion to the "actual" golf course. Seriously, I doubted there was any reason to actually go any further at this point. It really seemed like all the fun was BEFORE you actually got to the part of seeing professional golfers playing a round.

Lunch was slightly scarce. Only a very few things to choose from, and VERY limited seating. We ended up snagging a table in the bar area. Probably totally illegal with the kiddos and all, but seeing as there were no other shaded areas to sit and eat at, I took my chances. No one said anything, and we ate our ham and cheese sandwiches out of the direct sunlight. There were a number of picnic tables in the main area, but nothing that would be conducive to "family friendly" in terms of small children. We were lucky to get a few real chairs where we were sitting, so the kids could safely eat without fear of them falling off. I am happy I stocked up their diaper bags with snacks, so they were able to munch on something throughout the day. I brought extra bottles of water with me too for the kids, which helped keep our expenses down and prevented us from having to find someplace to get drinks.

We then headed to the course to see a few golfers hit. We were set on seeing Tiger Woods (as was every other spectator at Whistling Straits that day!), and we got a chance to. We also were able to see a few others play (unfortunately, my favorite, Sergio Gracia didn't make the cut). Jonah found Jim Furyk, and that was truly the highlight of his day.

Now, I said I'd talk more about strollers. And here it is.

Strollers and the golf course of Whistling Straits do not get along. If you were able to see the hills and trails of this place, you'd know what I mean. There were actually times I had to take Lily out of her stroller and carry her, while my mom pushed the stroller. We figured if the stroller bit it and fell down the hill, atleast Lily wouldn't be in it when it did. But honestly this is my own fault. I was adequately forewarned that the course was hilly, but not being a golfer myself, I guess I didn't understand the capacity and extremity until we were there. From now on I will not be bringing strollers to a golf tournament. EVER. Trust me. Lesson learned.

What I did notice about golf tournaments is how insanely commercialized they are. I mean, I understand. Ido. It is a business and these players would not be able to get paid what they do if it weren't for hefty sponsors, contributors, and spectators. It is a business and I get it. But to see the beautiful golf course trampled by thousands of people, and the long, wispy grass that once stood tall was smashed by electrical cords, concession areas, and people trying to get the best view they could was sad. I'm sure on a non-PGA day it looked and felt much better. But isn't golf supposed to be relaxing? The view from much of the course was breathtaking. Looking over the lake and feeling the cool breeze. Truly beautiful. I wish I could experience it on a day when all of the distractions were gone. I wonder if the Dustin Johnson debacle would have ever been had the course been in better shape?

Whistling Straits doesn't have many trees to sneak under, so shade is nearly non-exsitant while out on the course
and after a few holes, the sun emerged and created a sweltering sauna of thick, hot, motionless air, so we decided it was time to go.  

All in all, I'm not sure if I would visit another PGA tournament with kids this age. I personally, do not recommend it. I think the PGA can certainly promote family-friendliness, but to those with older children, who can stand the heat, and thoroughly love the game of golf, and don't require the amenities that babies and toddlers require. If Jonah is still interested in golf when he is 9 or 10 year old, we may reconsider taking him.

Here's what I learned-

~Bring your own food, or splurge for the upgraded tickets where you can get better food, better shade, and better seating.
~Don't expect to find high chairs anywhere.
~Bring your phone and check it at the "Tech Check". This way you can at least have it up until you go in to the course. The fact that you can't have a phone (on tournament days) is okay for those NOT traveling with children, but what if something happened? What if Todd and I got separated? Or worse off, one of the kids got lost? There would be NO WAY to get a hold of them. I HIGHLY recommend the PGA look into some sort of paging device they could possibly rent out or offer to family members. If they simply vibrated, there is no risk of distracting the golfers, but the safety of family's would be a priority. Seriously, get a high profile company to take on the program. AT&T? Verizon? I'm sure someone would want to be the "official" whatever to the PGA.
~KNOW YOUR COURSE! Do your research to see if it is a course you and your kids can handle. Hills? Shade? Can you handle that much walking? Will a stroller be okay for a course like this? How will the weather effect the event for you personally?
~Stay away from expensive things. Family friendly or not, the expensive things are apparently more important than treating the spectator with respect.
~Have a plan on where to change diapers. I had to lay the kids out right in the middle of the small patch of grass at the entry way. With only port-a-potties, I had no other option.
~Bring plenty of fluids. Particularly AQUAFINA (apparently, the official bottled water of the PGA and the only water that is allowed beyond the checkpoint in to the course) Drinks are expensive, save your money.
~Bring a well-versed golfer with you if you can. It was a God-send having my step-dad there. He knew where and when certain players were at. This saved us LOTS of time and trouble trying to track down the few we were eager to see. He was our own personal guide!

I truly hope the PGA takes some of my advice into consideration for future events so they can make them more enjoyable for families with small children. In the end, I was happy we went because Jonah got to see something that was very important to him. Seeing Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods, in the flesh was priceless. I am thrilled he got the chance to experience it.

disclosure:I was given tickets for my family to attend the PGA 2010 Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. Even though I was compensated, it by no means alters or shapes my review and opinions in any way. You will always find the most honest and truthful information on my site. Always.

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