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Here’s why Louisville Metro is paying for security at PGA Championship

An image of a purchase order.
Louisville Metro Government
The PGA Tournament Corporation must use the money for security services at Valhalla Golf Club.

Records obtained by LPM News show the city gave $140,000 to the PGA for security at the golf tournament. But why?

It started with a promise in 2017. Former Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer signed a deal with the Professional Golfers’ Association of America pledging that the city’s police department would provide free security at the PGA Championship when it came to town in 2024.

But now, with the golf tournament set to begin this week, current Mayor Craig Greenberg said the Louisville Metro Police Department doesn’t have enough officers to meet the commitment.

So, in March, the city wired $140,000 to the PGA Tournament Corporation to help the group pay for security at the heralded golf event at Valhalla Golf Club in east Louisville.

“We’re not in the same situation we were in 2017,” Greenberg said at a press briefing this week.

The payment to the PGA came five weeks before Greenberg proposed his budget for the next fiscal year — in it he calls for steep cuts to several city agencies, including a 50% slash to the police department’s recruitment strategy. LMPD’s overall budget would increase about 8% under Greenberg’s spending plan to more than $242 million. Some of the added money will help pay for consent decree monitoring, a necessity that comes in the wake of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found LMPD officers routinely violate people’s civil rights.

The police department has been struggling for years to attract and retain officers. In 2016, police officials bemoaned the lack of available officers to work in the city. At the time, the city had almost 1,000 sworn officers, according to the city’s 2017 budget.

Now, there are less than 800 sworn officers working for LMPD, according to budget records.

The payment to the PGA Tournament Corporation will help the golf company pay for off-duty officers to work within the golf tournament venue, Greenberg said. The PGA must document how they spend the money and provide copies of the records to the city within 45 days after the tournament ends, according to the agreement between the city and the PGA. Any unused money can be returned to the city’s coffers.

Even if the city had enough officers to meet its obligation, Greenberg said the price to staff the tournament would “cost about the same.”

Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks at a press briefing on May 14, 2024.
Louisville Metro TV
Mayor Craig Greenberg discusses the $140,000 payment to the PGA Tournament Corporation at a press briefing on May 14, 2024.

This is not the first time a host city has paid for security at the PGA Championship. In 2022, Tulsa, Oklahoma paid $100,000 to cover security costs at the tournament, according to a report from KTUL. The Tulsa City Council approved the spending, but not without pushback. At the time, Tulsa councilor Kara Joy McKee said the payment was akin to “corporate welfare.”

"The taxpayers need us to fix the roads; the taxpayers really need us to make sure their neighborhoods are safe. The taxpayers don’t need us to make sure we maybe, possibly get another PGA tournament," she said. "This feels like a giveaway to people who need no help.”

Spokespeople for the Louisville Metro Council's two caucuses did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the spending.

In addition to security, the 2017 agreement Fischer inked with the PGA promised a bevy of other perks for the tournament — free parking, public relations support, volunteers and a 100-person “chalet” for entertaining guests during the golf tournament.

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.

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