KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

A final salute to Harbor Shores, with many thanks for the memories

May 22, 2024


Jeff Babineau

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. ­– The western border of Michigan, which juts along the massive lake that carries its name, is an awfully long way from Atherstone, England, where Paul Broadhurst calls home. Savoring morning tea and memories in years to come, Broadhurst knows that he sure is going to miss this place when he no longer is playing golf here.

When Broadhurst, a touring professional since 1988, thinks of his best golf ever, he finds himself drifting off to 2018, when he won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores. His week started in 78th place after an opening 72, forcing him to make contingency travel arrangements to potentially return home early to England. Then he found something and produced the following progression that lives in his head to this day: Rounds of 66-64-63. Oh, and a giant trophy to go along with it all.

“Not really sure what happened,” said the mild-mannered Broadhurst, now 58, looking back at a magical week six years ago in Benton Harbor. “... To be honest, I’ve never done that since.

“It was just my weekend. I putted unbelievable. Obviously played nicely from tee to green. But the putter was on fire that week. Don’t think I ever holed so many 30-, 40-foot putts in my life.”

This week's KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship marks the sixth and last dance for the event at Harbor Shores under the umbrella of the PGA of America in Benton Harbor. In addition, the 156-man field competing in the season’s second major includes 40 PGA of America Golf Professionals that make up the Corebridge Financial Team, who, over the next few days, will play hard to best represent their fellow 30,000 PGA Professionals. The PGA of America Golf Professionals here are looking to find magic much like Bob Sowards, Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio, who tied for fifth three years ago and earned a six-figure check at Southern Hills in Tulsa.

Harbor Shores has been an every-other-year host since 2012 (taking off 2020 because of COVID). KitchenAid and the PGA of America have enjoyed an impactful 13-year run, making a huge mark in this Michigan community and leaving plenty to celebrate as the last edition featuring the famed brand as the title sponsor tees off on Thursday morning.

Jack Nicklaus transformed a rugged patch of abandoned property that was home to closed-down factories and a city landfill to build Harbor Shores, a centerpiece that has helped to spark revitalization in the community of Benton Harbor. Through financial support from Whirlpool Corporation (parent of KitchenAid), which is headquartered in town, as well as public and private funding, new homes were constructed and hundreds of new jobs created.

“It’s been a great venue, I think, for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, and players love coming here,” said Bernhard Langer, who, at 66, is the all-time leading winner on PGA Tour Champions. He also owns the most major titles among the over-50 set, having collected 12.

Surprisingly, Langer has not won at Harbor Shores, where he has built a strong record. Four times he has played – he was defending champion in 2018, but missed to attend one of his children’s graduations – and he never has finished worse than fourth. He tied for third both in 2014 and 2016; two years ago, when Steve Alker won, Langer finished third.

This year, Langer applied for, and was granted, an ADA exemption to ride in a cart having come back from a torn Achilles tendon he sustained Feb. 1. He was back in action in three months, and two weeks ago tied for eighth at the season’s first Champions major, the Regions Tradition.

It has been a bit of an odd, unpredictable year thus far on PGA Tour Champions. Some of the bigger names – such as Steve Stricker, last season’s Player of the Year after winning six times, including the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at PGA Frisco and two other majors – have yet to win in 2024.

Alker, who leads this year's Charles Schwab point standings, is home in Arizona this week for the high school graduation of his daughter, Skye, and therein lies an opening for the field. There has been a popular belief on tour for years that, unless one’s name is Langer, players hit a proverbial wall in their mid- to late-50s and rarely win past that. But at the top of the season-long Schwab Cup standings, right behind Alker, are Stephen Ames, a two-time winner who is 60; Broadhurst, who is 58; and Joe Durant, who won this season at 60.

“There is no reason that you have to hit the ‘schneid,’” reasons Scott Dunlap, 60, who earlier this month won for the first time in a decade when he captured the Insperity Invitational in Houston. “If you keep your body, I don’t know why 58 or 60 has to be this precipitous decline. It doesn’t have to be. It is if you don’t take care of yourself.”

Ames is the perfect example. Having been slowed by a shoulder injury for a couple of years, he now finds himself back in the gym four or five days a week. He is very fit, has seen nice progressions in his swing, still hits it plenty long, and is as confident in his game as he’s ever been. Ames has won six times since the start of 2023 and is one of the players to watch this week alongside Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Thomas Bjorn and relative newcomer Stewart Cink.

There are plenty of others ready to join the rich history of a tournament that dates to 1937, when Jock Hutchison won the very first Senior PGA Championship at Augusta National Golf Club.

One last go-around at Harbor Shores. The course is in prime shape and is ready. The winner will receive $630,000 from the $3.5 million purse, one of the bigger paydays of the senior season. The money is nice, sure, but eventually it gets spent. The memories live on. Asked if he will miss competing at Harbor Shores, Broadhurst does not hesitate.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “It’s always nice to go back to somewhere where you’ve won. Extra sort of buzz about the week, a course you played well on in the past.

“Yeah, it’ll be different not coming back.”