Q&A: Prestige at PGA WEST has Come a Long Way

UC Davis head coach Cy Williams

Feb. 14, 2014

The Prestige at PGA WEST will be showcased for the 14th time when it begins with fesitivities on Sunday at the Greg Norman Course at PGA WEST. The tournament is one of the best amateur events in the world, holding a No. 8 ranking among college tournanments - including the NCAA Div. I Championship - and No. 39 worldwide. It's hosted future and current PGA stars and has been played at world-class courses. Besides the 54-hole golf tournament which starts on Monday, the event also features the popular Prestige at PGA WEST Junior Clinic and a college-am tournament on Sunday, and an awards dinner that evening.

UC Davis head coach Cy Williams, working with former Stanford coach Wally Goodwin and current coach Conrad Ray, has been integral in the tournament's growth into one of the most sought-after events on the college schedule. He talked with www.ucdavisaggies.com about the Prestige at PGA WEST's beginnings and its highlights.

How did the idea for The Prestige at PGA WEST come about?
CW: The idea was to create a tournament that was unique to college golf.  We (UC Davis) created The Prestige with the idea to have a tournament that celebrated academic and athletics excellence. We looked for teams that were ranked highly in both categories to fill the majority of our field. We then went over to (former Stanford golf coach) Wally Goodwin and asked if they wanted to co-host with us and he loved the idea. Stanford is, obviously, one of the premier academic institutions in the world. That's where it started and it's taken off.

The Prestige at PGA WEST has a premier location in one of the best golfing locales in the world. How did two Northern California schools decide on Southern California for their tournament? 
CW: (Tournament director) Mark Weismann's son, Lee, played for us in the late 1990s and Mark had been telling us we should have a tournament down there. When we had this idea come forward, we presented it to Mark and he went to the city of Palm Desert and it started at Desert Willow Golf Resort which is a city course. It was there for two years before we moved to The La Quinta Resort and PGA WEST. The city of La Quinta became involved next.

You moved shortly after to PGA WEST. How did that partnership begin?
CW: George Roberts (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.) was one of our major sponsors and he was in there from the very beginning. He's been just a tremendous supporter of this event and I know he's a very big Stanford supporter. PGA WEST was one of his company's assets at the time, I believe. After a couple of years we knew we wanted this tournament to be the best there is and PGA WEST is one of the best names in the world of golf. That was the motivation for the move over there.

The Prestige at PGA WEST has been played at the Greg Norman Course and the Stadium Course. Those are incredible courses for a college tournament. 
CW: Both of those courses host PGA Tour qualifying events - Q-School as it's known - and these are the best courses in the world and they're challenging. We use the same hole locations and course conditions as the Q-School so it's great for the players to get that opportunity to compare their games, somewhat, with the scores that are being shot at Q-School because a lot of these players want to look to professional golf as a career. 

The Prestige at PGA WEST is regarded as one of the top college tournaments in the country. How proud are you of its growth? 
CW: I'm really proud. I think Davis is the best place in the world and I really think it's an honor for UC Davis to be part of such a prestigious event, and we're going to keep working to make it better. I think we have a great home at PGA WEST and our field is tremendous. We'll do the same thing we do every year. We'll get done, we'll evaluate this tournament and we'll see how we can make it better.

Describe how you've been able to attract the best college teams in the country. 
CW: We started off at a high level. We got a really good field from the get-go. But, you're right, we have teams calling us and wanting to get in. I think the move to February has been the final piece that was missing because now we kind of have our own spot on the college schedule, whereas in the fall months you're fighting with so many tournaments. It's more of a marquee event now and it's one of the events teams will look toward now and say 'Hey, how can we get in that event?'  

Luke Donald (Northwestern), Anthony Kim (Oklahoma) and Spencer Levin (UCLA) are among the world-class professionals who played in the Prestige at PGA WEST during college. That's quite a list.
CW: We've had PGA Tour players and Ryder Cup players. Brandt Snedeker (Vanderbilt) played in the event as well. That's what's so great about it. The people down in La Quinta can come out and know they're going to see players this year that are going to be winning future PGA Tour events. These are players that are going to be playing in the Ryder Cup. You're talking about the highest quality of collegiate players.

UC Davis and Stanford are developing nice rivalries across several sports. What's it been like teaming up with them while hosting this event?
CW: I look at Stanford and I think they're the best of what college is all about. They have the best academics and they have some of the most successful athletics. They win the (NACDA) Directors' Cup every year. (Current coach) Conrad Ray is an amazing coach and an even better person so it's so much fun to get to work with him. We both want what's best for the tournament. We both have the same goal. Yes, it's great to work with him but it's more fun to beat him but it's been a few years since we've done that.  We've got to do something about that!