Benton Harbor's Senior PGA Championship canceled, was 'only option'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The state's first major golf domino has fallen.

The Senior PGA, set to be the season's second major on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, has been canceled outright because of coronavirus, tournament officials announced Thursday.

The Senior PGA was scheduled for May 21-24 at the Golf Glub at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.

Rocco Mediate celebrates his Senior PGA Championship in 2016.

"This was not an easy decision, we know how much this Championship means to our Southwest Michigan community, and the positive impact it has on our local economy, however the health and safety of our community is our priority" Jeff Fettig, chairman of the Senior PGA Championship, said in a statement. “We will miss the players and fans, who have all become welcomed extensions of our community over the years. While we are incredibly disappointed that the championship will not return to Benton Harbor in 2020, we know that this is the right thing to do."

Tournament officials said they explored the option of rescheduling, but said that cancellation was "the only option," in the face of the coronavirus crisis. The season's first major, the Tradition, was set for the week before in Alabama, and has been rescheduled for September. The tour has five majors per season.

On the PGA Tour, the season's first three majors, the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open, have been postponed, with reports saying the final one, the British Open, is set to be canceled.

The Senior PGA has been held at Harbor Shores, a Jack Nicklaus-designed resort, every year other since 2012, with champions like Colin Montgomerie, Rocco Mediate, Roger Chapman and Paul Broadhurst.

More:Detroit's Rocket Mortgage Classic appears in serious jeopardy

The tournament is signed on to return to Benton Harbor again in 2022 and 2024.

“We completely support the PGA ... in their decision to cancel the championship, and we appreciate the diligent and thoughtful way in which they have handled this situation,” said Marcus Muhammad, the mayor of Benton Harbor, in a statement. “We take great pride in our city, and are looking forward to hosting the championship and showcasing all that Benton Harbor has to offer when the time is right.”

The cancellation will cost the Benton Harbor tens of thousands of charitable dollars. In 2018, the tournament raised about $175,000 for local organizations, including the Benton Harbor High School athletic department, as well as the First Tee of Benton Harbor, among several others.

Michigan now awaits word on the fate of the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic, scheduled for the end of May at Detroit Golf Club, as well as the LPGA Tour's Meijer Classic, set for June 11-14 near Grand Rapids. Both tours are suspended through the middle of May.

Scheduled state tournaments in 2020

Champions: May 21-24, Senior PGA Championship, Golf Club at Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor (CANCELED)

PGA: May 28-31, Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club

LPGA: June 11-14, Meijer LPGA Classic, Blythefield Country Club, Belmont

LPGA: July 15-18, Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, Midland Country Club

Champions: July 31-Aug. 2, Ally Challenge, Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc

Twitter: @tonypaul1984