Cover Story: Pro Golf in Charlotte - up in the air?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A big weekend of golf in Charlotte with the Quail Hollow Championship underway.  But will Charlotteans have to kiss Quail Hollow good-bye?  We got word from the president of the Quail Hollow Club that club members might not be interested in continuing the golf tournament once its sponsorship with Wachovia-Wells Fargo ends in five years.  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson looks at the reasons why in our Cover Story.

It's far from a done deal, but the man who helped create the Wachovia / Quail Hollow Tournament reportedly wants the Quail Hollow Club to focus on hosting one of the majors.  Again, it's five years down the road, but if it were to happen it wouldn't be the first time Charlotte has let one get away.

A dozen years ago.. it was Arnie's Army creating a stir in Charlotte.  Faithful fans following Arnold Palmer around the TPC at Piper Glen.. in the Home Depot Invitational.

Charlotte hosted the Champions Tour from 1983 to 2001. Six years it was at Quail Hollow, before it moved to the TPC in south Charlotte its final 12 years.. the tournament then folded.

Charlotte cut its teeth on professional golf 30 years ago when it hosted the Kemper Open from 1969 to 1979.. it was at Quail Hollow.  But moved to suburban Washington in 1980.

But the Wachovia / Quail Hollow Championship by far exceeded Charlotte's two previous attempts at hosting tournaments.  Putting Charlotte on the map of the golf world and pumping in yearly somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million dollars to the Charlotte economy.

To the golf faithful.. out enjoying a Friday afternoon.. at the Charles T. Myers Golf Club.. a public course in east Charlotte.. even the thought of the tournament going away.. is downright depressing.

Reggie Hopson says it's never had a problem selling out.. and is in a perfect spot on the calendar and in people's hearts.

"As far as prestigue for the community.. as far as prestigue for the venue.. it's well loved by the players, by the fans.. it falls two weeks after The Masters.. one week before the PGA.. you can't lose that," he says.

Quail Hollow Club President Johnny Harris who helped create the tournament has always said he and his members want to host one of the major tournaments..

Like a US Open, PGA Championship, or Ryder Cup.  That would be a reason not to renew the Wachovia / Quail Hollow deal.. which runs out in five years.. in 2014.

Golf expert Del Ratcliffe.. who specializes in golf course management says if that were to happen.. while a blow on Charlotte's psyche.. it doesn't mean the city can't hold onto a golf tournament.. Charlotte's gone over the top for this tournament.

"If this tournament goes away it will probably be solely because the membership of the Quail Hollow Club decides that they don't want to do it anymore.. and that's a real possibility too," he says.  "But if that happens we ahve other venues that could potentially step up and fill the plate."

One that comes to mind-- the TPC at Piper Glen in south Charlotte for example took over what was the PaineWebber Invitational after Quail Hollow decided it had had enough.. a lot can change in the next five years.

One thing is certain-- the Quail Hollow Club has spent a lot of money making improvements to the course and the venue since the Tournament started in 2003.

It's considered among the best courses on the PGA Tour.. outside the major championships.