For the Record
NJ golf fans push attendance mark over the top at the PGA Championship.
By Mark Stewart
Photography by Jonathan Wentworth–Ping
During the final week in July, the epicenter of the golf world was right in our own backyard, as 156 of the game’s top players competed for the Wanamker Trophy at the 98th PGA Championship. The final major of 2016, held at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield Township, played host to record crowds and a thrilling finish.
American Jimmy Walker outlasted defending champ Jason Day, who produced a clutch eagle on 18, in the final round to win by one stroke.
It was Walker’s first victory in a major, and an unlikely one at that—he’d missed the cut in four of his last eight tournaments. That being said, there was a certain poetry to the 37-year-old Walker’s win. It was at Baltusrol, after all, where he met his longtime caddie, Andy Sanders, 16 years ago during the U.S. Amateur.
After Walker’s winning putt (he needed par on 18 following a spectacular birdie on 17) he rushed to embrace Sanders, who suffers from MS.
“Sometimes things don’t come easy, and golf is not an easy game,” Walker said. “There was a ton of support from the crowd and the fans.”
PGA of America President Derek Sprague thanked the staff and members of Baltusrol, along with the 3,500 volunteers who helped run the event and “the wonderful fans here in New Jersey who came out and watched this tournament.”
Despite a rainy third round, attendance topped the previous record at Baltusrol, set in 2005 when the PGA Championship was last held at the club. Tickets for the final two rounds in 2016 were sold out weeks in advance, with more than 160,000 people on the course those two days.
Baltusrol was founded in 1895 by Louis Keller, publisher of the exclusive Social Register. The current Upper and Lower Courses—the first contiguous dual courses in the U.S.—were conceived by A.W. Tillinghast, who designed more than 250 golf courses during his prolific career. They are markedly different, with each incorporating distinct geological features. Both opened for play in 1922 and have since hosted a dozen professional, amateur and open championships, including five U.S. Opens, two U.S. Women’s Opens, and a pair of PGA Championships. Baltusrol was the first “two-course” club to host the men’s and women’s open tournaments on both of its courses. The 2016 PGA Championship was contested on the Lower Course.