Whistling Strait to the bank
PGA tournament creating economic boon for area

By Craig McCarthy - News Graphic Correspondent

Aug. 13, 2015

OZAUKEE COUNTY — Businesses in Mequon, Thiensville and the surrounding communities have definitely hit a sweet spot this week thanks to the 97th PGA Championship taking place Thursday through Sunday at Whistling Straits, near Kohler, in Sheboygan County.

“Many restaurants and shops are already reporting an upswing in business related to the 2015 PGA Championship,” said Tina Schwantes, executive director of the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce.

The Championship also means big business for hotels, as an estimated 200,000 spectators are in the region until the tournament wraps up on Sunday. Bob Briese and his business partner, Linda Walsh, have owned the Chalet Motel on Port Washington Road in Mequon since 1988. Since 2004, this is the third major golf tournament at Whistling Straits they’ve been around for and are impressed with the prebookings over the Internet which started earlier this summer.

“We took a number of reservations where customers locked in and prepaid,” Briese said.

He admits having a major golf tournament in the area during his busy time of the season (July 15 to Aug. 15) gives his establishment an additional boost, despite the fact that Whistling Straits is approximately 45 miles away. “It’s a simple case of supply and demand,” said Briese. “I’ve got some people staying four and five nights, but most people are staying at least three nights.”

Having an event of this caliber in the region is creating quite a buzz at many area country clubs, like North Shore in Mequon.

“A major golf event, like the PGA Championship, is just phenomenal for the area,” said Head PGA Professional at North Shore County Club Jason Rasmussen. “A lot of our members are going to take off and head up there.”

Rasmussen, a Grafton resident and PGA Professional since 2005, believes this is just the beginning and that the area is going to continue to see increased excitement in golf over the next several years.

“It’s great for the game of golf and Wisconsin,” Rasmussen said.

With two more major PGA events returning to the state within the next five years, area business are already making plans to lure customers and take advantage of great, upcoming opportunities that don’t come around very often.

“You’ll have people looking for rooms probably a little over a year in advance, so you have to be on top of it,” said Briese. It also means that private, family owned businesses, like the Chalet Motel, will continue to rely on word of mouth and exceptional customer service to drive sales.

“We are not a national property so we depend on drive-up business and customers who have stayed with us for years,” Briese said.

If fact, Briese said plans are already in motion for the upcoming 2017 and 2020 tournaments as rooms will be offered to their repeat customers. According to Rasmussen, those upcoming events should once again attract huge crowds to the region.

“Knowing that 40 minutes away you’re going to have some of the best players from all over the world competing at a facility in our state, it’s great. Golf is the focus of this week and hopefully for years to come.”

The U.S. Open is teeing off at the Erin Hills Golf Course in 2017, and the Ryder Cup is scheduled for Whistling Straits in 2020. Both tournaments without a doubt will have a tremendous impact on area businesses and the local economy, he said.

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