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Louisville tourism leaders expect big impact from PGA Championship’s return

Golf course greens and pond
Brent Flanders
Creative Commons
Louisville Tourism estimated that the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club could have a nearly $80 million economic impact in the area.

Dozens of the best players in professional men's golf are competing in Louisville this week. The PGA Championship has returned to Valhalla Golf Club for the first time in a decade, and local officials want to make it a boon for the city.

On the outer edge of east Jefferson County lies a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, one of the sport’s legends. The nearly 500-acre site is tucked along the Floyds Fork creek and has been the site of victory for stars like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

Through Sunday, Valhalla Golf Club is hosting its fourth PGA Championship, and the first since 2014. More than 150 players are competing, including top-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler. McIlroy and Woods, ranked No. 2 and No. 807, respectively, are each pursuing their second tournament win at Valhalla

The PGA of America, which owned Valhalla until 2022, announced this return to Louisville in 2017. And it’s the first time Louisville’s hosting the tournament so soon after the Kentucky Derby.

Zack Davis, Louisville Tourism’s vice president of destination services, said his agency expects this month to be its biggest May ever for event attendees and economic impact.

“I think people don't realize, like, once the Derby comes and goes, there's not a whole lot else in the month of May from a booked event perspective. So we love it,” Davis said.

Louisville Tourism reported in February that the 106th PGA Championship could create a nearly $80 million estimated economic impact. Davis said that figure includes tournament attendees spending money on local hotels and businesses.

He added that the event is a way to grab international attention.

“We kind of forget … what these do for just the exposure, that Louisville, Kentucky is on the map for a lot of people [who] may not have been [aware],” Davis said.

Paul Coomes, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Louisville, created a report in 2014 for the city’s tourism agency, examining that year’s PGA Championship. He estimated the tournament drew more than $12 million in new spending in Jefferson County, and led to hotel room bookings equivalent to about 16,000 nights.

Greg Fante is president of the Louisville Sports Commission, which promotes local sports tourism and physical activity. Both the commission and Louisville Tourism are hosting representatives from sports organizations outside Louisville at Valhalla on Friday.

Fante said his group and others that work to attract sports-related clients give them a unique pitch.

“We always lean into, ‘We've been in sports tourism longer than any other city in America, because of 150 years of the Kentucky Derby.’ It's woven into the fabric of who we are as a community,” Fante said.

He also said the commission will need to play “a more active role” in efforts to bring the tournament back to Louisville in the future, since Valhalla is no longer owned by the PGA of America.

“We certainly are expressing that interest to all of the members of the PGA as they are here,” Fante said.

The PGA has already announced several locations for upcoming championship tournaments, including Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Francisco, as far ahead as 2034.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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