One day after the champagne sprayed to celebrate an American team victory, trucks rumbled, deconstruction banged and recreational golfers returned to Hazeltine National Golf Club’s fairways on Monday.
So now that the 41st Ryder Cup is nothing but memories, what’s next for Hazeltine?
Mostly resting and waiting.
The private Chaska club exists in part to conduct national championships, but it has nothing signed and scheduled going forth in a business where the U.S. Open already is booked through 2026 and the PGA Championship through 2023.
That means another major event is at least eight years away, and that’s just fine with Hazeltine National officials and a membership that surrendered the course for the better part of seven weeks this summer.
“This was such a huge event, we have to take a whewwwww,” Hazeltine National championship committee chair Jim Dauwalter said, wiping his brow for effect.
That’s not to say Hazeltine won’t continue to pursue its mission statement in the coming years. Those national championships could include smaller ones such as the U.S. Golf Association men’s or women’s Mid-Amateur, U.S. Amateur or a senior event, competitions that don’t require six or more months to build a village and four months to tear it down, like the Ryder Cup.
Major events such as a U.S. Open, PGA Championship or Ryder Cup require time and lots of it for a club and its membership to recover from the amount of manpower, volunteers and effort it takes to put on such an endeavor. The club already has held three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships.
“I think it’s got to be at least seven years,” Dauwalter said. “You need a breath.”
Hazeltine proved to be a winning Ryder Cup venue, spacious enough to hold the three-day competition’s ever-growing corporate villages, television compound and operational infrastructure. Its course was meticulously prepared and pristine enough — club members played off mats from the fairways since early August, and the entire course closed just after Labor Day — and the Minnesota autumn weather was spectacular enough to create stunning images televised worldwide.
Even if the losing European team quibbled or criticized — depending upon the player — with a course setup that yielded eagles and birdies galore as well as the most lopsided American victory (17-11) since 1981.
“I hope it has more rough, just to say,” European star Rory McIlroy said when asked about Hazeltine as a future site for another U.S. Open or PGA Championship. “But that’s about it.”
Europe’s Justin Rose called last week’s lack of rough and Sunday’s easy pin placements — set by PGA of America chief championships officer Kerry Haigh, after consultations with U.S. captain Davis Love III — a setup befitting a pro-am event.
“This course can be as tough as you want it, there’s no doubt about it,” Rose said. “I thought the setup was incredibly weak. I don’t quite understand that, to be honest with you. Twelve world-class players here, and we want to showcase our skills.”
No American course has ever held a Ryder Cup twice, although Dauwalter said the event’s growing demands will limit the number of clubs that have the room and infrastructure to hold future ones.
He said he believes Hazeltine will be considered for another Ryder Cup. Alternating every two years between the United States and Europe, the event is scheduled through 2024.
“You mean to tell me, as big and as successful as this was, we’ll never be considered again?” asked Dauwalter, a former Entegris CEO who caddied when he was 15 in the 1966 U.S. Women’s Open at Hazeltine and has been a member since 1988. “It may not be in our lifetimes, but there’s only a handful of courses in the world who can put on what we just put on.”
Dauwalter calls Hazeltine National’s partnership with the PGA of America a “wonderful relationship” that resulted in the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships coming to the course as well as the Ryder Cup. He also said the club has regular dialogue with USGA officials and said, “We’d also love to have a U.S. Open.” The last one at Hazeltine was in 1991, and the nation’s championship increasingly has been played on the East and West coasts with an emphasis on “public” courses, no matter how pricey the greens fee.
In 2002, the PGA of America announced the 2009 PGA and 2016 Ryder Cup would be played at Hazeltine. Whenever the next major event declaration comes, U.S. team vice captain and Minnesota-raised Tom Lehman said Hazeltine will be worthy.
“It’s a tremendous golf course, a very difficult course,” Lehman said. “This week, it was set up for birdies. It was set up to create some drama, and we saw some amazing performances. It’s more fun seeing that than guys hacking out of the rough, making bogeys.”
When asked if Hazeltine National is suitable for another U.S. Open or PGA, Lehman said: “Absolutely. This course is not easy. The minute you start growing the rough out, it just becomes more and more difficult.”
Set up easy or difficult, that next really big event is years and years away, but it could arrive seemingly as quickly as this Ryder Cup did.
“I’m hoping it’s a senior’s major in 10 years time,” Europe’s 43-year-old Lee Westwood said.