83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship: Fields Ranch yields plenty of red numbers in debut
FRISCO, Texas — The PGA of America welcomed the golf world into its new home as Fields Ranch East Course at PGA Frisco plays host to the 83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
While the state-of-the-art office space that serves as the new home of the PGA of America has been occupied since 2022, the Senior PGA serves as the christening of the Fields Ranch East course, a Gil Hanse design that has impressed plenty of pros as they have tried to meander their way through his strategic bunkering and subtle but taxing green complexes.
While Fields Ranch isn’t an easy test, two aces were recorded in the first-ever tournament round at the course.
Yet another PGA Professional made history in Thursday’s opening round as Dave McNabb lays claim to the first hole-in-one at Fields Ranch. Similar to Michael Block’s iconic shot at Oak Hill, McNabb never saw it go in the hole.
“I saw one bounce and I sort of picked my tee up,” McNabb told pool reporters. “My caddie, Donny (Wessner), says, ‘It went in!’ Good stuff.”
While McNabb’s ace on the 165-yard 8th will forever be known as the first in course history, former Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin made an ace of his own on No. 4.
Out of his 15 career aces, the one at Fields Ranch ranks up there with the 1 he had at No. 16 in the 1992 Masters. Coincidentally, Pavin’s playing partner, Kenny Perry, was witness to both.
“Kenny is my good luck charm apparently,” Pavin chuckled.
Aside from the two aces, plenty of red numbers dot the leaderboard.
As a second shot golf course, Fields Ranch plays into the hands of ball strikers. As one of the best ball strikers on the PGA Tour Champions, Padraig Harrington carded a bogey-free 8-under 64 to pace the field.
A key part to scoring at Fields Ranch? The wind.
“Because every hole nearly has a hazard down one side of it, the wind direct has a big effect on this course, it really, really does,” Harrington said.
“In some ways the reason it was an easy 64 is because when you’re playing with somebody like Rocco there’s always a bit of chat and there’s always a bit of fun going on, so you’re quite relaxed. And that really does make a difference to how you feel about your shots and things like that. So it’s something as professionals we always need to keep reminding ourselves.”
Rocco Mediate shared the same sentiment.
“Going around here in the pro-am you’re not seeing low, you don’t see ’em because then — but then when the things change, the golf course is perfect. Wind wasn’t that bad today. I don’t think it’s going to be that bad. You give these guys some different irons into some of these greens they’re going to tear the grass off it. That’s how it’s always been.”
With wind typically a factor this time of year in North Texas, Fields Ranch offers a fair test whether the wind is ripping or not. Luckily for the players this week, the winds should stay at or around 10 miles per hour for the rest of the tournament.
With the wind remaining calm, we’ll get a preview of just how low players can go at the home of the PGA of America. With 25 more championships scheduled through 2034, it will be interesting to see the pace set this week.
Fields Ranch has allowed players to take advantage of well executed shots but has also gotten the better of players who weren’t committed to every single shot. PGA Professional, Bob Sowards, was one of a handful of players thrown off of his game plan.
“Oh, it was very frustrating,” Sowards told reporters following his first round 1-under 71.
Three under at the turn, Sowards lost all progress with a double bogey-bogey start on the back nine.
“I got pretty angry out there. I told KB, I got to be the dumbest guy on this whole property. Because if you’re going to make a game plan you might as well follow it. I chose not to and paid the price. So, oh, well. At least I still shot under par and gives me a chance going forward.”
Through round one, over 30 players are in red figures with over a dozen more at even par. Ideal weather and fast and firm playing conditions could result in one of the lowest scoring senior majors in recent history.
Defending champion Steven Alker shot a 2-under 70 and is tied for 18th after 18 holes.