I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; St. Louis is a spectacular sports market. And that assertion was proved again over the weekend as golf’s PGA Championship drew record crowds that impressed everyone in the golf industry.
Throughout the weekend, TNT and CBS announcers raved about the size and volume of the crowds at Bellerive Country Club. It was notable to walk the course and see tents from local sponsors like Edward Jones, Centene, National Car Rental, Bayer, Husch-Blackwell, Anders CPA, Mercy and McCarthy, among others. And of course, seeing Oracle, Bank of America, Charles Schwab, Lexmark and Constellation, among others…proved again that St. Louis can draw major national sponsors to a big, well run sporting event.
And while the fans loved the golf, the golfers loved the fans. Brooks Koepka, who won the U.S. Open in New York earlier this summer, said after his victory “There’s more people here this week than I think I’ve ever seen at a major championship. I don’t know how many people actually came through the gates, (but) St. Louis is a great sporting town. They’re very energetic, which all of us love. I can’t tell you how many people we saw Friday, Saturday, especially when you’re making that turn, even watching it a little bit on TV, I was amazed at how many people were out here in the morning. I know there’s Tiger Woods, I get that, but it’s still impressive how many people came out.”
Koepka didn’t just love the weekend that saw him take and keep the lead, but even before that St. Louis showed him…” They’ve been amazing. I’ve never seen this many people at a golf tournament. They were as energetic and loud as I’ve ever seen. I don’t think — I mean, on Wednesday, I don’t even think there’s been that many people at an event that I’ve ever played at. And then when you come out here on Saturday afternoon, the crowds — I mean, I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never seen that many people at a golf tournament. It’s actually — I mean, I know that it’s a big sports town, which is awesome, and then to see all these people come out and support the golf tournament, I love it. I wish it was like that every week.”
Kansas alum Gary Woodland, who was paired with Tiger Woods in the final round, had the chance to see any negative side to a pro-Mizzou audience, but that didn’t happen. “Missouri fans were really nice to me, for the most part,” he said. “It was nice playing with Tiger because he cancelled out all the Mizzou fans. I couldn’t hear them. It was pretty cool. The energy was unbelievable. Even from Monday, the amount of turnout for the week, it was pretty cool.”
Speaking of Tiger, he’s seen and heard it all on the PGA tour, and he recognized that St. Louis was different. “They have been unbelievable. Not only supportive, but just so positive. They have been on — they have been supportive of all of my playing partners and myself and it’s been a pleasure to play in front of them, it really has. Hopefully, we can come back soon.”
Tiger lit up the course when he surged to within a shot of the lead on Sunday and heard it when STL turned up the volume. “The energy was incredible, but the positiveness of it all. Everyone was willing every shot that everyone hit. There were no negative comments, no one was jeering, no one was making snide remarks, everyone was just very positive. They’re excited, yeah. They sometimes pick sides, yes. But they were respectful. And that’s, I wish we could play in front of crowds like this every single week because this is a true pleasure.”
Belgian Thomas Pieters, who played golf in Champaign for the Illini, made a late run to finish in a sixth-place tie, and heard the thunder when Woods was surging. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I hope one day I get to play with Tiger, that would be cool. But, yeah, I think we were on 16 looking back on 10 on the fairway or 15, and you could see Tiger come by and it was just 20 rows deep, it was unbelievable.” Even Jordan Spieth, who was out of contention and played early, noticed the energy. “I think the fans this week were probably better than I could ever remember at a golf tournament. They’re fantastic. They’re loud. They came in bunches. There’s a lot of people here. But they also were very respectful. You know the Tiger roars. You know kind of the ground swell. So being able to see the amount of kids that were out here too is unbelievable.”
Jordan Spieth saw enough at Bellerive to make him want to return. “They really came out in full force in St. Louis. You can tell it’s a great sports city. It’s a great market to come to. Hopefully, we can come back here in May…and it would be a lot of fun to come back for sure.”
When asked if he’d like to come back, Koepka said “I don’t see why anybody would be against it. I mean, I know that they set things up for the next, what is it — I’m looking at these banners — 2029. Most of them are already pretty set. But going forward, I wouldn’t see why. This tournament was great for the fans, especially with the leaderboard that we had. Everyone turned out for it. Everyone was there. Everyone is excited. I don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t come back to this area, being such good sporting fans. I think it would be great. You look at it, I think it would be perfect for a Ryder Cup.”
Here in St. Louis, we know that we do sports well, and it’s great to see the players on the PGA tour get a glimpse of America’s Best Sports City. We earned that moniker. And hopefully we’ll see our golf friends again soon.