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Economy & Business

PGA Enthusiasts Pour Money Into Milwaukee's Economy

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Andrew Redington/Getty Images
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Dustin Johnson of the United States watches his second shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on August 13, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Thousands of golfing enthusiasts from across the country are descending on southeastern Wisconsin for the PGA Championship. 

It got underway Thursday at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County. Much of the tourism money benefits Milwaukee’s economy.

A steady stream of golfers was playing a quick round at the Brown Deer Golf Course in Milwaukee before heading to the tournament. Bob Wendell is loading his golf clubs onto a cart at Milwaukee’s Brown Deer Golf Course.

Wendell arrived Wednesday night and is entertaining more than 200 employees of his company. They’re staying in downtown Milwaukee during the PGA tournament. Wendell says he looked for a hotel closer to Whistling Straits, but most were full.

“With the company I work for, that was the venue that could accommodate the number of people that we had coming in. We’ve been here before, it’s a great place to be and not that bad a drive up to Kohler,” Wendell says.

One member of Wendell’s group is Robert Sherrill of York, Pennsylvania. He has a packed schedule – with much of it taking place in Milwaukee.

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Credit Marti Mikkelson
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Golfers wait to tee off outside the club house at the Brown Deer Golf Course

“We’re going to play an afternoon golf round today, go to dinner tonight, tomorrow we have a business meeting in the morning. Then we are heading off to the PGA tomorrow afternoon and all day Saturday and flying back on Sunday,” Sherrill says.

Sherrill says he’s an avid golfer and appreciates being able to tee off at a course close to where he’s staying. Dennis Weber also plans to play a few rounds at Brown Deer. He knows it well. Weber lives in Denver, but is originally from Mequon.

“It’s just a classic old course with big trees. There was a tour event here for 15 years. I was a men’s club member here, so a lot of good memories,” Weber says.

Brown Deer is capitalizing on golf fever, according to Ben Popies. He’s operations manager at Brown Deer. Popies estimates that twice the usual number of golfers visited the course on Thursday, taking advantage of its special offer.

“It’s $99 per person. That includes their round of golf, their range balls and a cart, plus $10 to spend on food and beverage,” Popies says.

Other tourist venues have put out the welcome mat for PGA visitors. Kristen Settle says about 35,000 people are expected to attend the tournament. Settle works for the tourism group Visit Milwaukee. She says the city sits in an advantageous location, about an hour from Whistling Straits.

“It’s estimated to be around $18 million just in the greater Milwaukee area. And, these people spend money on hotels, restaurants, retail, it’s really amazing the impact that one convention, one event like this can have on the city,” Settle says.

Settle says PGA visitors may not know much about the Milwaukee area before arriving but could return someday, if their experience is positive.