Monday, 04 August 2014
The 18th green at Valhalla  (Getty Images)
The 18th green at Valhalla (Getty Images)

Situated in the heart of Kentucky, Valhalla Golf Club will play host to its third US PGA Championship this week, marking the latest chapter in an already storied past that began back in 1986.

That year saw the club located some 20 miles east of Louisville open its doors to the public, the brain child of prominent local businessman Dwight Gahm, and designed by 18 time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus.

Gahm, along with his three sons – Walt, Gordy and Phil – dreamed of a venue that could play host to the game’s greatest talents, and the five time US PGA Champion would build just that, turning the 486 acre site of rolling Kentucky countryside into what is now a 7,458 yard par 71 layout.

The owners would not have to wait long for their dreams to be realised either, and after some initial discussions with the PGA of America, it was announced in 1992 that Valhalla would play host to the year’s final Major some four years hence.

Roll forward to the second week in August, 1996, and golf’s great and good descended upon Louisville for what would be the first in a thrilling set of events to grace the hallowed turf.

At the end of 72 holes there would be nothing to separate the American duo of Mark Brooks and Kenny Perry, who posted 11 under par for their first four competitive rounds at Valhalla.

Only one more hole would be required, with Brooks registering a birdie four to Perry’s par, to claim the one and only Major title of his career.

The bar was now well and truly set, with Kentucky proving a suitable location, and Valhalla a truly Championship layout that would surely host another of the game’s great events in the near future.

It only took four years for Glory’s Last Shot to return, their reward, one of the most titanic final day battles in Major Championship history, as the dominant Tiger Woods took on the little-known Bob May.

Both players gave as good as they got on Sunday, firing countless birdies at each other, before embarking on extra holes for the second time in Valhalla’s history.

This time it would not be sudden death however, with the Championship’s first use of their new three hole play-off method, which eventually saw Woods come out on top by a single shot.

Another strong showing, and Valhalla’s standing in the game as one of the great Championship courses was almost complete, all it needed was a tightly fought American triumph in in the game’s biggest team event – and that is just what it got.

Cue September 2008, and the arrival of The Ryder Cup to Kentucky, where the home team broke a three-contest losing streak under the stewardship of 1993 PGA Champion Paul Azinger to wrestle the trophy back from the European Team.

‘Zinger’ would eventually mastermind a 16½ - 11½ victory for his 12-strong band of patriots, a result that remains the last time the American team triumphed in the celebrated team contest.

So there you have it, the plotted history of Valhalla Golf Club.

All that remains to be seen now, is what delights will welcome the players, crowds and global TV audiences alike, as the best players in the game descend once more upon the home of Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Muhammed Ali, and of course, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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