It didn’t take World Golf Hall of Famer and 34-year touring professional Laura Davies long to give Hazeltine National Golf Club two thumbs up.
“It’s one of the best courses I’ve seen,” Davies said Monday morning after playing the back nine in preparation for this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “It was great. I fell in love. Tough but fair.”
At 55, Davies will be making her 125th start in a major come Thursday. The second of her two Women’s PGA Championships came in 1996, a year before one of her Thursday-Friday playing partners, Kristen Gillman, was born.
So, in other words, the four-time major winner has seen more than enough to appreciate recent efforts by KPMG and the PGA of America to bring the women to these iconic courses that have hosted men’s majors and Ryder Cups.
“It’s where we belong,” said Davies, one of several players who showed up Monday to begin their practice routines. “We don’t want to play courses that aren’t up to par like we used to play in the old days. We deserve this and hopefully we put on a good show.”
Davies said she’s particularly interested in seeing how Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer of the PGA of America, sets up the signature par-4 16th hole, which comes with a forced carry and tight landing area between Hazeltine Lake on the right and a creek on the left.
“From the back tee, it’s one of the hardest holes I’ve ever played,” Davies said. “And from the front tee, it’s one of the most fun holes I’ve ever played.
“From the back, I would hit 2-iron. But you got to hit driver because I’d have to absolutely nail a 2-iron just to carry the first bit of water.”
The 16th hole will be part of the LPGA Tour’s season-long AON $1 million Risk-Reward Challenge. With that in mind, Haigh could use the forward tees to tempt some players with the risky proposition of a 255-yard drivable par 4 into a tricky peninsula green.
“I hope they go with that front tee,” Davies said. “And forget about that back tee.”