WILMINGTON – With final preparations being made at Eagle Point Golf Club in Porters Necks, the Wells Fargo Championship rolled out several items this week.
On Tuesday, tournament officials held a news conference on site to provide updates on the event’s progress. Wells Fargo 2016 Champion James Hahn joined the conversation via FaceTime from Tampa, Florida, as he prepares for this week’s Valspar Championship. He is one of several early player commitments for the PGA TOUR event in Wilmington.
“I was just talking to a couple of players a few days ago and we’re all really excited,” Hahn said. “It’s a new course, something fresh, booking our trip early to have a great stay and looking forward to great week.”
PGA TOUR players Carl Pettersson and Webb Simpson are also both members of the Eagle Point Golf Club. Pettersson, North Carolina State alumni, holds the course record of 62.
Simpson spent part of his childhood in Wilmington and frequents the area annually to play Eagle Point. He was in town to share thoughts on the how the location is being received by other players and excitement surrounding the Port City leading up to tournament week, which is set for May 1-7.
“It’s great to be here,” said Simpson, who resides with his family in Charlotte at Quail Hollow. “Any chance I get to come to Wilmington I take it. I learned the game playing Landfall as a kid during the summer. Once they built Eagle Point, it was like Augusta National to me as a kid.
“My birthday a few years ago, my wife said to take my friends and go golf. I’m going to Eagle Point,” he said. “So twice a year now I take a trip with my friends to Eagle Point. There’s no better event on the PGA TOUR.”
Currently, Simpson is listed No. 58 in the World Golf Rankings and 18th in the FedEx Cup standings. His highest finish on the leader board this season was runner-up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open held at TPC at Scottsdale in early February. He’s brought home nearly $1 million through 10 events played from October 2016 to the present day.
The four-time PGA TOUR Champion and winner of the 2012 U.S. Open has finished among the top-ten in the Wells Fargo Champion bracket in two of his last five starts, including a runner-up finish in 2015.
“It’s a perfect world for me and dream come true to be able to play a PGA TOUR event here. Wilmington is a great golf town. I think this is an area that understands golf. There’s excitement and buzz here,” Simpson added.
Representing the current PGA TOUR youth movement and one of the youngest players to commit so far is John Rahm, who won the Farmers Insurance Open a few weeks ago. The 21-year-old placed third in Sunday’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico.
A complete list of player pledges and those who have partially committed to the Wilmington stop on the tour are listed below. Others include Vijay Singh, 2009 U.S. Open Champion and 2011 Wells Fargo winner Lucas Glover and 2013 Champion Derek Ernst.
“It’s been really fun getting to Wilmington full-time since the first week of January,” said Kym Hougham, Executive Director of Wells Fargo Championship. “We’ve been overwhelmed with support and excitement. We’re trying to make this an incredible experience for everyone. Our field will really start to fill out after the Master’s Tournament.
“We’re really close to releasing final plans as to some of the logistics and how things will exactly play out. There are a lot of components to put this together,” Hougham said. “We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on how traffic is going to be handled. We’re doing all we can to keep this as much under control as we can. That requires us to work with a lot of different partners.”
Players have until 5 p.m. on April 28, the Friday before the event, to commit to the tournament and can withdraw from the Wells Fargo Championship at any time.
Did you know when Arnold Palmer won the 1957 Azalea Open in Wilmington-the last professional golf event to be played in the Port City-he earned $1,700? The winner of this year’s Wells Fargo Championship will take home $1.35 million.
While it is still subject to slight changes, the official yardage for Eagle Point Golf Club during the tournament has been determined. The PGA TOUR players will face a total of 7,409 yards during the competition with the front nine playing 3,635 yards and the back nine 3,774 yards. That is a little over 150 yards longer than what the membership plays. Par will be 36-36—72, which is the same for the membership.
“We started working on this event two years ago and have a little more than 50 days to go and I’m a nervous wreck,” said Bobby Long of Eagle Point Golf Club. “There were some big markets in contention and for the Wells Fargo to choose us in Wilmington speaks to the work we’ve been able to do. We’ve brought in every expert we can think of to make this course well-received.”
Sites and dates for the Wells Fargo Championship Pre-Qualifier and Event Qualifier have been announced by the PGA Carolinas Section. Pre-qualifying will be held Thursday, April 27 at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington and at Gaston Country Club in Gastonia. The event qualifier, which will determine the final four spots into the 156-player field for the Wells Fargo Championship, will be held Monday, May 1, of tournament week at the Country Club of Landfall.
“We’re encouraging fans to start visiting the tournament website at www.wellsfargochampionship.com for additional information and updates,” said Lee Patterson, Wells Fargo Championship Director Communications. “During the week of the event, fans will be able to download a mobile website to get tee times, pairings and tournament news.”
Champions for Education, the non-profit organization that manages and operates the Wells Fargo Championship, has designated The First Tee of Greater Wilmington as the primary beneficiary of the 2017 PGA TOUR event.
To initiate its presence and support of the Wilmington area, Champions for Education announced a $25,000 challenge grant to support The First Tee of Greater Wilmington. The grant will be used by the local chapter of The First Tee to encourage financial support to be matched by Champions for Education, up to $25,000, potentially generating a total of $50,000.
Partial Player Commitment List as of March 7
- Roberto Castro (2016 Wells Fargo runner-up)
- Derek Ernst (2013 Wells Fargo Champion)
- Lucas Glover (2011 Wells Fargo Champion/South Carolina native)
- Bill Haas (2011 FedEx Cup champion/South Carolina native)
- James Hahn (2016 Wells Fargo Champion)
- Mackenzie Hughes (2016 RSM Classic Champion)
- Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open Champion)
- Vijay Singh (2005 Wells Fargo Champion)
- Jon Rahm (2017 Farmers Insurance Open Champion)
- Danny Willett (2016 Master’s Champion)