Warwick Hills to host PGA Champions event in Sept. 2018

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Grand Blanc Township — Professional golf is returning to Warwick Hills.

The PGA Tour Champions tour and Ally Financial announced Tuesday the Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club — a longtime host of the Buick Open — will hold The Ally Challenge on Sept. 10-16, 2018.

Mark O'Meara, a World Golf Hall of Fame member,  speaks during an announcement Tuesday that Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club will host The Ally Challenge in September 2018.

The news that Warwick Hills would host a Tour Champions tournament was first reported by The Detroit News on Friday.

“This is a unique opportunity for the PGA Tour Champions to return to a great venue like Warwick Hills,” said Greg McLaughlin, PGA Tour Champions president. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement to come here.

“The golf course, the history, it was a no-brainer, it really was, to come back here. We were just grateful the membership and board accepted us.”

Warwick Hills hosted the Buick Open for 45 years through 2009 and was generally considered one of the enthusiastic stops on the tournament, with strong community support.

“The return of professional golf here is special for our members and our community,” said Trent Marshall, club president. “We’re excited to start a new chapter with the PGA Tour Champions and Ally and welcoming the legends of that tour.

“We want to provide a world-class experience for the competitors, for the fans and our membership, while showcasing our golf course.”

The Ally Challenge will be an additional event and is not replacing one on the Champions schedule.

Champions Tour players are looking forward to returning.

“The players of the PGA competed here when it was a PGA tournament event,” said Mark O’Meara, who had four top-10 finishes at the Buick Open and has won two majors. “To have the opportunity to come back, I was pleasantly surprised because I had no idea this was going to happen.”

O’Meara viewed the Buick Open as one of the favorite tour spots among many golf pros.

“I remember the times coming here, playing 18 years, I thought the community embraced the event,” O’Meara said. “When we played here, the fans, certainly Michigan is a great golf state, and when the regular tour played here, we had great support from the fans and volunteers and from the club. That really stood out.

“And that’s one of the reasons so many guys came and played here every year, and that’ll show when we come back here in September (2018).”

PGA Tour veteran Tom Gillis, of Lake Orion, will make his Tour Champions debut next summer after turning 50 in July — and the new tournament in Grand Blanc could be one of his first appearances.

He said he’s thrilled the region is getting another regular Tour stop.

“In the past seven years, it seemed like every week on Tour, players were asking if we would ever go back to Grand Blanc,” Gillis said. “I’m so pleased for the southeastern Michigan charities to be able to benefit from the Ally Challenge. Most of us feel like it’s been long overdue.”

The opportunity to score well on Warwick Hills is also a drawing card for players.

“It’s a golf course where if you’re playing well, you’re driving the ball good and you’re putting well, there’s a possibility to shoot a really nice score,” O’Meara said. “We’ve seen that in the past when we played the PGA Tour events here.

“You’re going to see when the PGA Tour Champion guys come here, there’s a strong possibility if the weather is right, and the course is in good condition, you’re going to see some low scoring.”

The Ally Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, with pro-am events taking place Wednesday and Thursday.

The PGA Tour Champions is a tour consisting of some of the game’s most recognizable and accomplished players age 50 and older; 32 of them are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The Ally Challenge will feature a $2 million purse and a three-year agreement, in place through 2020.

Andrea Riley, Ally Financial chief marking and public relations officer, sees the golf tournament as an excellent opportunity to promote the revitalization of Detroit and Flint.

“Our sponsorship of this tournament not only brings an exciting sporting event to the area, but also reflects our deep commitment to doing right in our communities and making meaningful contributions to the places where we live and work.

“We’ve played a significant role in the revitalization of Detroit over the past decade, and with the debut of The Ally Challenge, we’ll be extending those efforts and helping to also drive positive economic impacts in the communities of Flint and Grand Blanc.”

The Ally Challenge is the sixth new event announced by the PGA Tour Champions over the past nearly three years. The schedule features tournaments in four countries and 18 states.

Staff writer Tony Paul contributed