‘Pieces falling into place’: preparations continue as Wells Fargo Championship approaches

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WILMINGTON — Five months from now the largest sporting event in the history of the Port City will tee off as preparations continue leading up to the Wells Fargo Championship, May 1-7, at Eagle Point Golf Club.

“Many items are falling into place regarding all aspects of the tournament,” said Lee Patterson, Wells Fargo Championship Director of Communications. “There is still a lot of work and planning to do. But we are excited and positive about the process so far. The support from several city and county organizations and the citizens of the Wilmington area has been very helpful and much appreciated by the tournament staff.”

Eagle Point Golf Club will host the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship. Photo by Joe Catenacci.
Eagle Point Golf Club will host the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship. (Photo by Joe Catenacci.)

In December, local citizens met with representatives from the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County and the Wells Fargo Championship to get a better idea of how logistics would work in hosting an event of this size.

From a traffic standpoint, Eagle Point Golf Club is located along the Intracoastal Waterway at the end of Porters Neck Road.  As in many instances across the country, parking for spectators during PGA Tour events is often off-site and will be the case for fans, media members and volunteers in early May.

“There were a lot of questions and we had someone there to answer those questions in full during the public input meeting,” said New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple. “Tournament organizers have been extremely open to us during this entire process.”

“We’re asking the people of our community to join us and help make this as successful as possible.” — New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple

“I believe everyone in attendance left with a better understanding of how things are going to work. They have a plan to make it happen. With the guidance of Tony Schuster (Operations Director for the Wells Fargo Championship), they do this all the time around the country. The institutional knowledge he brings to the table has been amazing. They have answers to these questions because they’ve lived through it.”

Like Patterson, Shuster has over 20 years of experience in running multiple PGA TOUR events.

With more than 20,000 expected in attendance each day, shuttles will chauffeur fans to and from the course. Designated parking will be available at the Spot Festival property in Hampstead and areas in downtown Wilmington. Porters Neck Elementary School will also be used for support staff and the players themselves to get to Eagle Point each day via golf carts.

L-R: Wells Fargo Regional President Kendall Alley, Wells Fargo Championship Executive Director Kym Hougham, Eagle Point Golf Club President Bobby Long, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President Connie Majure-Rhett.
L-R: Wells Fargo Regional President Kendall Alley, Wells Fargo Championship Executive Director Kym Hougham, Eagle Point Golf Club President Bobby Long, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President Connie Majure-Rhett.

“We’ve been looking at this as a huge opportunity for us to showcase our area and show the world we can handle something like this,” Zapple added. “We’re asking the people of our community to join us and help make this as successful as possible.”

The golf course itself at Eagle Point has also been undergoing changes. Since 2014, when the Wells Fargo Championship announced plans to move to Wilmington for one year as the tournament’s typical home at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte plays host to the 2017 PGA Championship, Eagle Point began looking at ways to ensure the course is well received. The course has added new tee boxes to lengthen the course to almost 7,500 yards.

Eagle Point, which opened in 2000, was designed by Tom Fazio and is currently among the Top 100 Golf Digest courses in America. Fazio has overseen alterations and re-design of Quail Hollow Club for several years. Several PGA TOUR players have played Eagle Point and believe it will be well received by the TOUR players, according to Patterson.

The Wells Fargo Championship estimates the weeklong event will have a $40-$60 million impact on the Wilmington area. Following three practice rounds, the four-day tournament will be broadcast to a national and international audience, available to over one billion potential households in 32 languages, across 225 countries and territories outside of the U.S. via international TV partners. High definition coverage of events will be available internationally on 35 channels across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australasia, Latin America and Canada. Golf Channel will broadcast the first two rounds and CBS will air the weekend competition.

The 2017 Wells Fargo Championship will be held at Eagle Point Golf Club in Porters Neck. Photo Courtesy- Wells Fargo Championship
The 2017 Wells Fargo Championship will be held at Eagle Point Golf Club in Porters Neck (photo Courtesy of Wells Fargo Championship).

“Everybody from the chamber of commerce here locally to the county fully understands the magnitude of this event,” said Zapple. “It’s a challenge, but we’re ready for it. There were real concerns from citizens during our input meeting. There will be some delays, but the overwhelming opportunity for us as a community gives us a different look at things.

“We’re focused on developing opportunities presented from hosting this tournament. Elected officials will be available during the week. Economic development people will be present to put our story in front of anyone expressing interest so we can provide any follow up material to take it to the next level.”