Move to fall brings creative tee times for 2020 KPMG Women's PGA Championship
To accommodate daylight and TV schedules, leaders will not be the last group to tee off on Sunday.
Daylight – or the lack thereof – will play an integral role during the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa.
Dwindling sunlight forced Championship officials to get creative with tee times. Sunday’s final round leaders won’t tee off last in their traditional spot. With TV coverage ending at 2 p.m. EST Sunday on NBC, the leaders will tee off approximately 45 minutes before the last scheduled tee time, so viewers at home can watch the drama unfold live.
“The fall schedule, as we all know on television, is full of many sports that have either normally finished or just started, so our weekend time slot has been moved to now a 3:00 and a 2:00 p.m. finish time on Saturday and Sunday,” said Kerry Haigh, the Chief Championships Officer of the PGA of America. “In some ways we could be making history this week because we will have the leaders not teeing off at the end of the wave on Sunday. And if we don't finish on Friday, they will not be teeing off last on Saturday, either. We feel it's important that everyone watching the telecast will see the leaders, see the leaders play all 18 holes, and we think that is important. And although it's a little different and out of the box, we as partners with the LPGA (Tour) and KPMG are prepared to make those changes for what we think will be a greater and a better championship for everyone to observe.”
Karen Stupples, a former LPGA Tour player who’s now an analyst at Golf Channel, believes the change won’t impact the leaders too much.
“I remember teeing off in like one of my first years on Tour with the lead and being the first group off in the afternoon to make that time (finish before dark),” she said. “As a player, it didn’t really make any difference to me. It was perfectly fine. Just as exciting to be in the lead and at the top of that leaderboard as it was if you were teeing off a couple hours later.”
The first and second round tee times are going off early to make room for a full field of 132 players. October days are notably shorter than in June when the Championship was originally scheduled to be played. Sunrise for Thursday’s first round will be 7:05 a.m. The first grouping of players will tee off at 7:10 a.m. Sunset will be roughly 6:30 p.m. each day. With a full allotment of players tackling a tough Donald-Ross-designed golf course, getting the first two rounds completed by Friday could be a challenge.
“We have probably three hours less daylight, but we wanted to maximize the size of the field,” Haigh said. “We do have 132 players in the field, which we are proud of. But having said that, we're actually going to tee off I believe it's three minutes after sunrise on Thursday and Friday, and we will be finishing well after sunset. The hope is to finish, but we would not be surprised if we were not able to finish due to the challenges and the difficulty of the golf course and the amount of daylight. But we felt it extremely important to provide the playing opportunity for all the best players to just feel what is a true major championship.”
Should the Championship go to extra holes, the playoff format has also been tweaked for ease of logistics. The first playoff hole will be the 10th, followed by nos. 17 and 18.
The grounds team, spearheaded by Aronimink Superintendent John Gosselin, is also dealing with the daylight issue. Every morning, his staff, plus 20 volunteers from around the region, start at 4 a.m. in total darkness. The night shift that starts at 4 p.m. doesn’t finish until 10-11 p.m. that night.
“The challenge for us this time of year, most of the work in the morning and a lot in the evening, we have to do it in the dark,” Gosselin said. “In June, there is so much more daylight.”
Haigh commended their efforts to pull off a successful Championship. “For two and a half hours in the pitch black (every morning), they are mowing, they are doing the bunkers, they are doing the greens, and managing that in the middle of 150 acres out on a golf course is unbelievable,” Haigh said. “Their team have put together an outstanding venue for the best women players in the world.”