Just three years after celebrating its 50th anniversary in Palm Beach County, the PGA of America is reportedly in negotiations to move its headquarters in the near future, possibly to the Dallas suburb of Frisco.
PGA of America staffers declined all interview requests Thursday, offering only the following statement: “Last year we issued a proposal to a number of markets that are potentially well suited and interested in developing a new headquarters campus for us. The due diligence phase is ongoing and no decisions have been made.”
A Golf.com report stated that the organization, whose primary purpose is to serve the 28,000 club pros across the U.S., is “poised” to move its approximately 210 staff members to a development known as Panther Creek, just north of Dallas. But members of that staff insisted privately Thursday that the process is ongoing and no decision has been made.
Palm Beach County was among the markets solicited. Kelly Smallridge, CEO and President of the county’s Business Development Board, told The Post Thursday that she was approached by a consultant about nine months ago and told the PGA of America was outgrowing its two buildings that comprise about 60,000 square feet of office space and looking for alternatives.
“We did a dynamite job” in offering several different locales around the county, Smallridge said, but the organization continues to look westward.
Geoff Lofstead, executive director of the South Florida PGA based in Atlantis, said all he has been told so far is that “absolutely no decision has been made on the future. What that means I don’t really know, but there has definitely not been a decision made.”
Frisco, site of the new headquarters building of the Dallas Cowboys and home to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, is apparently offering not only a new larger headquarters building but also two 18-hole championship golf courses, one of which it is hoped could host a PGA Championship and/or a Ryder Cup down the road. Both franchises are part of the PGA of America brand.
One of the Panther Creek courses will be designed by Gil Hanse, who did a makeover on the Blue Monster at Doral several years ago and also designed the 2016 Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro.
Some of the biggest names in area golf circles said they would lament the organization’s departure.
“It’s going to be a loss for our county,” said three-time major champion and Hobe Sound resident Nick Price. “They’ve been a huge part of golf around this area for a long time.
“It’s kind of unusual when so many (PGA Tour) golfers are moving to Palm Beach County and they’re (talking about) moving out. I’m sure they have their reasons. Maybe they were offered a better deal, or maybe they want to be more centrally located.”
“I can see where they would want to be associated with a golf course,” said Bob Murphy of Boynton Beach, who played on both the PGA and Champions tours and served as a golf analyst for NBC. “They were when the land was basically given to them (by John D. MacArthur at what is now BallenIsles Country Club).”
Events that were once staged at PGA National during the winter for club pros visiting from the snowbound Northern states have mostly since moved to PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie. Attempts to contact GM Jimmy Terry to discuss the future of such events were referred back to the PGA of America offices.
While a handful of tour pros — most notably Jordan Spieth — live in the Dallas area, winter weather that features ice storms and even the occasional snowstorm is not nearly as conducive to year-round golf as South Florida.
Murphy said it would be no surprise if the organization has determined it would be better to be more centrally located to serve its coast-to-coast membership. Toward that end, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport offers many more flight options than Palm Beach International.
The presence of the PGA of America has been one of the main reasons Palm Beach County has been able to call itself the “golf capital of the world” for several decades. Still, its potential departure doesn’t seem likely to warrant the removal of that label.
“I don’t think it does,” said Honda Classic Executive Director Ken Kennerly, whose 2018 event drew a record crowd of nearly 225,000 to PGA National Resort. “Look at how many great courses are here.
“You’ve got the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, the LPGA is in Daytona Beach and the PGA of America has for all these years been in Palm Beach Gardens. That seems to me to make us the golf capital of the world.”
Added Lofstead, “We still have an abundance of world-class golf facilities, one of the premier events on the PGA Tour, a Champions Tour event in Boca and we’re the second-largest of the 41 sections in the country. A lot of us refer to South Florida as the golf capital of the world.”
Post reporters Bill DiPaolo, Eliot Kleinberg, Sarah Peters, Jeff Ostrowski, Susan Salisbury, Jennifer Sorentrue and Wayne Washington contributed to this story.