Quail Hollow Club readies for the perfect match.
by Michael J. Solender
When Arnold Palmer visited Quail Hollow Club for the last time in 2013, the legendary golfer had some words of wisdom for longtime club president Johnny Harris.
“He put his arm around me, and said, ‘Johnny, your mother and dad would be very pleased with everything that’s happened here, but just remember — greatness is a continuous process, and don’t ever stop trying to be great,’” recalls Harris, chairman and CEO of real-estate developer Lincoln Harris. “And I promise you, one of the things that we do here at Quail Hollow is try to be a place where greatness has a home.”
Palmer need not have worried. Harris and his team are making certain that “greatness” translates to outsized economic, cultural and philanthropic impact for the region.
Harris’ father, James J. Harris, helped found the south Charlotte course on family land in 1961 after encouragement from Palmer, who was then at the peak of his career. From 1969 to 1979, the club hosted the Kemper Open, a PGA Tour event. The PGA Championship, one of professional golf’s four major tournaments, was held here in 2017 (the event returns to Quail Hollow in 2025).
Typically in the spring, golf fans — along with throngs of casual spectators — descend on Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship, held annually since 2003. Instead, this spring the tournament will move temporarily to Maryland’s TPC Potomac as the club prepares for another stage.
September 20-25, Quail Hollow Club will host the PGA Tour’s Presidents Cup, a biennial global team competition pitting the top professional U.S. golfers against top golfers from the rest of the world excluding Europe.
With more than 40,000 people expected to attend daily for the better part of a week, the 257-acre property will hold more people than the nearby cities of Statesville, Matthews, Indian Trail or Mooresville. Millions more in the U.S. and internationally will view the tournament live on television. Tour estimates project the tournament will generate a regional economic impact of more than $100 million.
The tournament was originally slated for 2021, but the pandemic forced the Tour to delay the event. The club is only the fifth U.S. golf course to host the prestigious team match-play competition, which alternates between venues in the U.S. and overseas.
Guests who regularly turn out for the Wells Fargo Championship will notice a few changes when attending the Presidents Cup. The course layout has been rerouted, with Quail Hollow’s famed “Green Mile” — usually holes 16, 17 and 18 — played as holes 13, 14 and 15. This makes the course better suited for the Presidents Cup’s match-play format, in which the outcome can often be decided earlier than the 18th hole. Each 12-person team will compete in a total of 30 matches.
The Cup offers four days of competition, a distinction from the three-day Ryder Cup, which pits top U.S. players against Europe’s elite. The tournament begins on Thursday, when a first-tee experience will create a “stadium-like atmosphere” for players and fans, according to event organizers. The competition continues Friday through Sunday.
The Presidents Cup is a unique golf event in that there is no purse, or prize money. (The Ryder Cup takes a similar approach in alternating years.) Players are not paid to participate, but each competitor allocates an equal portion of the funds raised to charities of his choice. Since its inception in 1994, more than $54.4 million has been raised for charity from event proceeds and other contributions.
“Immersing ourselves into the Charlotte community was one of the first priorities we laid out for the 2022 Presidents Cup,” says Executive Tournament Director Adam Sperling. “Part of what defines this city are the many nonprofit organizations giving back to the heart of this community, anchored by key leaders who have created stability and growth while establishing a pathway of success for future generations.”
Six nonprofit organizations in the Charlotte region will each receive contributions of more than $150,000 from this year’s Cup. These include the Charlotte chapter of The First Tee, Augustine Literacy Project-Charlotte, Charlotte Family Housing, NXT/CLT, Renaissance West Community Initiative and Lorien Academy of the Arts.
Johno Harris, president of Lincoln Harris and tournament chair, notes that community outreach goes well beyond financial contributions. “Wells Fargo, Quail Hollow Club and the PGA Tour founded the nonprofit Champions for Education program in 2002 to work directly with HBCUs, including Johnson C. Smith University,” Harris says. “The Presidents Cup is hosting golf outings at Quail Hollow Club pairing students and partner organizations in a casual setting to help make lasting community connections.”
On Aug. 29, the Presidents Cup will debut The Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup. The exhibition match will feature six of the top men’s golf programs at U.S. historically Black colleges and universities competing under Presidents Cup formatting at Quail Hollow Club. Johnson C. Smith is the event’s host school.
Sperling, who’s been working on the event since 2018, is in continuous motion, coordinating an army of local vendors, suppliers and municipal assistance in preparation for the event. Constructing a tournament village for the Presidents Cup requires a broad level of operational support, from transportation, security and hospitality, to construction, permitting and other infrastructure needs.
The numbers reveal the scale — the tournament will be one of the largest sporting events ever hosted in Charlotte. More than 1,400 volunteers had signed up at press time. Upward of 400 media credentials are allocated for the event. The tournament will host more than 100 private hospitality units for groups of 12 to more than 100, Sperling says.
Last fall, Center City Partners introduced the Presidents Cup team captains, Charlotte native Davis Love III of the U.S. Team and Trevor Immelman of the International Team, at the unveiling of a special Presidents Cup mural in Uptown. “This event brings national and international media, and the opportunity to participate in storytelling about the vibrancy of our city as a growing, diverse, and inclusive business and hospitality hub,” says Michael J. Smith, CEO of CCP. “We look forward to additional fan activations in Uptown this fall.”
Quail Hollow is ready for the spotlight. Infrastructure spending on the club over the last 30 years exceeds $42 million, Harris says, with most of those funds coming directly from professional golf. Improvements include a paved road along the perimeter of the course, additional gated entrances, improved parking, course enhancements and expansion of the practice facilities.
“This club has evolved into a venue for major championship golf,” Love said at a Presidents Cup media event last fall. “It’s built for it.”
Regardless of which team takes home the Cup in September, the event is a win for Charlotte, according to Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “It’s an incredible win for the region to host the Presidents Cup and gain the benefit of the prestige and international exposure of an event of this caliber,” Murray says.
That’s a hole-in-one. SP
Know before you go
2022 Presidents Cup
September 20-25, Quail Hollow Club
Tuesday and Wednesday are noncompetition rounds; the Presidents Cup competition runs Thursday through Sunday. General admission tickets for spectators are priced dynamically but start at $40 for Tuesday, $60 for Wednesday and $100 for Thursday-Sunday. At press time, tickets for Friday and Saturday were nearly sold out.
All tickets provide access to several on-course public venues featuring fare from Charlotte-based restaurants and an opportunity to stand along the rope line to watch the players.
Captains’ Club ticket packages allow fans access to a hospitality space between holes 1 and 8 at Quail Hollow Club in a venue offering expansive views of the course. The space includes a large balcony, a sports-bar environment, and premium food and beverage options. Captains’ Club weekly tickets (Wednesday-Sunday) start at $750; daily tickets start at $175 for Wednesday and $250 for Thursday through Sunday.
Featured image by Ben Jared/PGA Tour