FRISCO – When the week began, with the 83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship christening the Omni PGA Frisco East Course that he designed, the least of Gil Hanse’s concerns was what Sunday’s winning score might be.
The public, Hanse said, often fixates on scores as being the barometer of a golf course’s quality.
“We don’t,” Hanse said of himself and design partner Jim Wagner. “We get fixated on who wins on our golf courses.”
History will show that the hottest senior majors winner of recent memory, Steve Stricker, not only won the first of many competitive tournaments at PGA Frisco, but did so by beating his 2021 Ryder Cup captain counterpart, Padraig Harrington, with a par on the first hole of sudden death, No. 18.
When Harrington’s downhill par putt missed, Stricker shook hands with Harrington, then turned to hug his caddie for the week, his 17-year-old daughter, Izzi, who last fall won the Wisconsin state individual championship.
“She did a great job,” Stricker, his voice cracking, said on NBC moments after the win. “It was a lot of fun, let me tell you, to spend all this time with your kids. She looks up to what I do for a living and she plays pretty danged good golf herself.”
Asked later how much of a cut his caddie will get of his $630,000 in earnings for the week, Stricker smiled: “That’s a good question. I’m going to have to ask the accountant on that one what’s the best way to do that.”
History also will show that of Sunday’s top nine finishers, five won major championships on the PGA Tour level; another was defending KitchenAid Senior PGA champion Steven Alker; and for Stricker this was his sixth major title since joining the PGA Champions Tour in 2017.
Stricker and Harrington shot 18-under in the 72 regulation holes, two strokes shy of Sam Snead’s 1973 Senior PGA record, but as Stricker said “the course showed some teeth at times today.”
So did playing partners Stricker and three-time major champion Harrington, the latter of whom led after each of the first three rounds. Stricker on Sunday took his first lead of the tournament with a birdie on No. 11 – and he didn’t relinquish it until he parred the par 5 18th and Harrington birdied.
“Steve is probably the toughest guy you could ever play on a Sunday,” Harrington said. “He has to have the best wedge game in the world. Like he’s a fabulous putter, he’s a fabulous chipper, but his wedge play like the first 15 holes was just spectacular.”
Stricker and Harrington separated themselves from the field, finishing two shots ahead of third place Stewart Cink and seven ahead of fourth-place Y.E. Yang – and Cink, who just turned 50 on Wednesday and was making his Champions Tour debut, eagled No. 18 to get as close as he did.
On the first sudden-death hole, the reachable par 5 18th, Harrington continued his weeklong strategy by hitting driver; Stricker, as he had since the second round, played it safe.
With the wind freshened from left-to-right Harrington’s drive sailed right and landed in deep grass on a steep bank, leaving the ball well below Harrington’s feet. He thought he could reach the green, but his hosel appeared to stick in the grass and the ball squirted even deeper into the hazard.
Harrington walked back to the fairway, took a drop, and from 272 yards out his 5-wood rolled 18 feet from behind the hole. Stricker missed his 18-foot birdie putt, giving Harrington a chance to tie, but Harrington’s downhill putt slid left.
Stricker has 12 PGA Tour victories, but is 0-for-86 in major tournaments. As a Champions Tour member, though, he’s won both of this season’s major tournaments and in his last 15 major tournaments he’s won six times.
PGA Frisco couldn’t have had a more worthy debut champion, and for the PGA of America, to have its last Ryder Cup captain win the first major at its new $550 million home made for nice symmetry.
As for Harrington, his week mostly will be remembered for two moments on the 16th hole. On Saturday, an extra-long visit to a port-a-potty resulted in his rushing his next shot, leading to a double-bogey – his first score worse than par in 51 holes.
On Sunday, Harrington’s drive sailed left and beaned a male spectator on the forehead. The ball caromed about 20 yards, toward the fairway. Harrington gave the fan a signed golf glove and six $50 bills.
“It never really seems adequate to give a guy a glove,” Harrington said. “He’s a grown man, like what’s he want with a glove with my signature? So I thought, ‘Please take your wife out for dinner.’
“Three hundred dollars should cover it, wouldn’t it?”
The week was a victory for the PGA and the East course, which earned mostly rave reviews from players. Before the 2025 KPMG Women’s PGA and the 2027 PGA Championship, certainly adjustments will be made to level some of the tee areas.
And this week showed that the PGA probably needs to add room for fan foot traffic, especially around the backs of the 13th and 14th holes; and the two bridges that carry spectators across Panther Creek between the 9th and 18th fairways aren’t wide enough to prevent bottlenecks.
Overall, though, the week was a resounding success. It also featured a local sentimental favorite, Cameron Doan, Preston Trail’s director of golf since 1999.
Doan, 55, was playing in his first major championship. On Thursday he had the honor of hitting the first shot on the East Course in tournament competition, piping his tee shot down the middle of the first fairway.
Of the 36 club pros in the 156-player field, competing as the Corebridge Financial team, 11 made the cut. And through three rounds Doan to the surprise of many had the lowest score among the club pros, 1-over, one shot better than Mark Brown.
Doan struggled on Sunday, though, with three bogeys on the front nine. When Brown double-bogeyed the 18th hole, Doan still had a chance to be the low club pro for the week, but he bogeyed the 16th hole and doubled No. 17.
“When the week started, being low club pro wasn’t a goal, to be honest,” Doan said. “It would have been great, but that’s not what the week was about, so I’m OK with it.”
What was the week about?
“The week was about living up to the chance to get the hit the first shot. I took that pretty serious. Because it could have been anybody in the [Northern Texas PGA] section and it was me. . . To be the guy to get to hit that shot, I just wanted to live up to that. And I did.”
After holing out for par on No. 18, Doan saluted the many Preston Trail and Northern Texas PGA friends who followed him all week.
Then, much like Stricker would do three hours later, Doan walked off arm-in-arm with his caddie – his son, Tristan. Cameron’s club professional father, Ron, often caddied for him in bigger tournaments before his 2017 passing.
After Cameron three-putted for par on No. 15, Tristan draped his arm over Cameron’s shoulder.
“He said, ‘You’ve got two caddies the last three holes: Me and your dad,’ " Cameron said, choking up. “There’s not many 20-year-olds that have that presence.
“I said, “OK, whatever score we make the last three holes, we’re gonna hold our head up and we’re going to do this the right way.”