By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
SUNRIVER, Ore. - The 46th PGA Professional National Championship tees off at the breathtaking Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore., on Sunday morning.
Few places in the world are more naturally beautiful than the Sunriver Resort, located at the edge of the high desert, just east of the Cascade Range, with spectacular views of Mt. Bachelor.
The field of 312 - the top 20 of whom will receive a spot in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August - will play one of their first two rounds at the Sunriver Resort's Meadows Course and one at the Crosswater Course. After the 36-hole cut is made following second-round play on Monday, the entire field will move over to Crosswater for the final two rounds.
On the eve of the tournament, we caught up with Crosswater Club Manager and PGA Professional Josh Willis to talk about what's in store for the PNC.
PGA.com: Josh, this is the third time that Sunriver Resort plays host to a PGA Professional National Championship. Can you talk to me a little about the anticipation of getting another championship under way and what it means to be the host yet again?
Willis: This is a really great opportunity not only for Sunriver as a resort to be the host site for a third time, but also a great opportunity for our own personal PGA Golf Professionals to work with a PGA of America Tournament Director, as well as the Golf Channel prior to the event and post event. It's just an incredible opportunity for everyone.
PGA.com: As we sit hear your walkie-talkie has been going off non-stop with staff members asking you questions. You're pretty much the one-stop shop for everything going on this week to an extent. Can you tell us what a week like this entails for you?
Willis: There are so many individuals involved on the golf course and it's a total partnership between a collective group of us on making sure everything is up and running. There are so many important pieces to the puzzle -- from the scoring live scoring and how it gets there through a volunteer, but then there's a scoring trailer. That runs off a generator and there's internet going into the scoring trailer. You have all these elements out there that if one little, single thing goes wrong it ultimately effects the quality of the event that we're able to help the PGA of America produce.
PGA.com: Sunriver is gorgeous. It's also a place where you can almost experience all four seasons in one day. Tell us a little about how quickly things can change here.
Willis: Well, for instance, let's take this morning. At 4:30, it was 34 degrees and it dropped down to 30 degrees by about 5:30. Then it slowly started warming up until now, where I'd say it's about high 70s. It's not uncommon for us to have as much as a 60-degree change in temperatures really. That's just how it is out here. It's not anything unusual for us.
I think anybody who played a practice round -- probably on Thursday -- realized just how quickly things could change. A lot of players were tweeting about it. In fact, one player in particular tweeted a photo he took on the tee and it was raining. He took a photo in the fairway and it was hailing. Then he took a photo on the green, the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud anywhere. That was a perfect example of three of our four seasons. We're hopeful that we'll have the better of all our four seasons this week, which is beautiful weather every day.
PGA.com: For the first two days, players will play one round each at the Meadows Course and the Crosswater Course, before coming back here to Crosswater for the final two rounds. Can you talk a little about the difference between the two courses?
Willis: The Meadows Course is a tree-lined golf course that's definitely located in the meadow. It was actually built around the Sunriver Resort Lodge, which was the foundation for the whole Sunriver community when the division of the property was built back in the 1960s.
Crosswater on the other hand, was built in 1995. It was the longest golf course in America when it opened. What's really unique is that it's 600 acres. Two hundred of those acres are for the community, 200 are for the bentgrass golf course and then 200 acres are native wetlands and fescue. We can't take an inch of land without giving an inch back to be in guidelines with our Audubon certification here.
The other amazing thing is that we've got the Little Deschutes River that curves through the golf course and basically flows into the Big Deschutes River, which also borders the golf course. I would say, without a doubt, the environment is what makes Crosswater so special.
As for the differences in the two golf courses, all in all, Crosswater is going to play a little bit longer, but there's not as many opportunities from an out-of-bounds standpoint like what the Meadows has. It'll take your best game to win this week.
PGA.com: What do you most look forward to during a week like this?
Willis: I enjoy working with the Tournament Committee. It's always a fun experience and if you don't enjoy it, you should probably take another job and do something different. I really enjoy hosting an event this size. Our goal is to have a championship of this magnitude every year and it takes a ton of work by our golf professional staff in partnership with the Tournament Committee, but also it takes a lot of work from our community with the volunteer support. We're lucky in Sunriver to have great amenities, which are attractive to the PGA of America, from our golf courses to our banquet spaces, all the way down to our food and beverage outlets. But, at the end of the day, it's the community that volunteers for us that allows us to host a championship of this magnitude.
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