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PGA National (Champion)

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

PGA National played host to the 1983 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Jack Nicklaus (US) and Tony Jacklin (Europe). Having never yet lost on home soil, the US Team almost succumbed to the Europeans in Florida. Seve Ballesteros, three up against Fuzzy Zoeller with five to play, stood on the last tee all square. He hit his drive into deep rough and then hacked out into a bunker. Seve then hit a 240-yard 3-wood from the trap to the fringe of the green and then chipped and putted for par and a halve. A wonderful shot from the Spaniard but it wasn’t enough for Europe. USA 14 ½ - Europe 13 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at Walton Heath in 1981 and at The Belfry in 1985.

With five 18-hole golf courses in its portfolio, the PGA National Resort & Spa at Palm Beach in Florida offers a true smorgasbord for hungry golfers. The star attraction on the PGA National menu is the Champion course, which was the battleground for the 1983 Ryder Cup – one of the closest contests in Ryder Cup history. The match was deadlocked at 8-8 after the first two day’s play and teams were still tied after the first 10 singles matches. Eventually Jack Nicklaus’s team edged out Tony Jacklin’s European side 14½ 13½, denying Europe their first Ryder Cup victory on US soil.

Tom and George Fazio originally designed the Champion course at PGA National in 1981 with major tournament play in mind. Not only did the Champion course prove to be a worthy Ryder Cup venue but also it was the course used for 1987 PGA Championship which Larry Nelson won after a playoff against Lanny Wadkins.

The Champion course received a major Jack Nicklaus redesign in 1990 and he returned to modify it again in 2002. Now it’s very much a Golden Bear creation and even has the tough-as-nails closing trio (15-17) labelled “The Bear Trap”. Measuring 7,158 yards with par set at a measly 70, the Champion really is a tough course, even for the pros who try to tame it during the annual “Classic”. Honda has sponsored the Classic since 1982 and the event has been contested on the Champion course since 2007 – the Classic was formerly hosted at Mirasol Country Club on their Sunrise course.

Jack Nicklaus – course architect writes: "We didn't just change the golf course, we basically designed a new one. For the most part, we kept the previous routing in tact because most of the original land usage including the changes in direction were fine and it also made good economic sense. The basic objective of the redesign was to try to make the Champion course a more playable golf course, or feel like it was a more playable golf course for all golfers concerned. To do this, wherever feasible, we eliminated the convex fairways. The original fairways were drained from the center out. This type of fairway has the tendency to make you feel uncomfortable. Balls hit and bounce off the fairways – giving you the feeling that the golf balls are collected into the fairway. We used the same basic philosophy with the green areas. The original greens were designed more as repelling greens. For strategic reasons, there are certain times when you design repelling situations, however for the most part, the fairways and greens now accept shots rather than repelling them."

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Course Architect

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Tom Fazio

Born in the northwestern suburbs of Philadelphia, Tom Fazio entered the business of golf course architecture as a teenager in 1962, assisting his uncle George in course construction.

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