SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For the fourth year in a row, the Professional Golfers Association Champions Tour is making a stop at the Minnehaha Country Club golf course in Sioux Falls for the Sanford International.
During a news conference Wednesday, Sanford Health Executive Vice President Micah Aberson, Tournament Director Josh Brewster and Tournament Host Andy North all expressed great appreciation to the members of the Minnehaha Country Club.
A two-year extension was reached in June, which came more than six months after the MCC Board of Directors voted against extending the tournament beyond 2022. With a new agreement in place, the Sanford International tournament is scheduled to continue at MCC through 2024.
“It was a long process and it was kind of a scary process,” said Brewster about negotiations between the Sanford International and the members of the Minnehaha Country Club. “I think at the end of the day, the membership, the tournament and all the sponsors understood what was at stake for our community. The community rallied behind it and we got it done.”
For those attending the tournament again in 2021 or for first time attendees, here’s a rundown of what you need to know before attending the event.
When can the public attend?
The course is open to the public starting at 7 a.m. Thursday with free admission. Morning and afternoon groups will be participating in the Pro-Am with gates closing at 6 p.m.
On Friday, the 50-and-over PGA professionals start to play at 11:15 a.m. with gates opening at 8 a.m. and the Opening Ceremony from the first tee box at 10:30 a.m. Gates close at 4 p.m.
On Saturday, gates open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m., while on Sunday games open at 7 a.m. and close at 4 p.m.
Tournament officials encourage fans to watch the action “parade style” or “cross-country” style. “Parade style” is where fans pick a certain spot or hole on the golf course to watch the field pass through, where “cross-country” style would be following a specific player or group around each hole on the golf course.
North, a two-time U.S. Open champion and ESPN golf commentator, said fans can get extremely close to the players and the action, especially when a ball ends up in the rough.
“These guys can still really play golf,” North said. “If you are a golf fan you want to see great golf, this is a great place to do it.”
North encouraged fans to both find a good place to watch groups play through as well as follow a group, but he also advised people to explore the golf course. There are public grandstand seats setup around the course.
“If you want to get away from the people, go out to (Hole) 12, 13 and 14,” North said. “It’s a long way to get there, but usually people turn around and don’t make that last 300- or 400-yard trip down there. You can really get close.”
How much are tickets?
Admission is free for active, reserve, Veteran and retired U.S. Military personnel as well as all first responders. All you need to do is show a military or first responder ID at one of the entrances of the tournament. A wristband will also allow for them and one guest to receive complimentary food and beverages at the Military & First Responders Outpose located on Hole No. 17.
In addition any child age 15 and under receives complimentary admission with a ticketed adult. Tickets for ground access are $20 each day, while a weekend pass is $50 for all three days of the tournament. The family package is $70 which includes two Saturday and Sunday ground tickets as well as a $20 concession voucher.
Brewster said metrics on ticket sales are up 30% compared to last year. Crowd sizes each day vary, but officials estimated crowds more than 15,000 have come out to the golf course on a single day.
“I think we’re going to be back to that Year One-type crowd,” Brewster said.
You can purchase tickets online on the tournament website or by calling (605) 229-9689.
Parking and how to get to the golf course
The main entrance for the tournament is located on 22nd Street. Tournament officials encourage all fans and volunteers to use free parking at the Empire Mall with free shuttles giving eight-minute rides to the main entrance. ADA parking and shuttles are available at the Sherman Park Softball Complex.
Parking at the Empire Mall is at the old Sears and Younkers parking lots and bus shuttles will run every 10 to 15 minutes between the parking lots and MCC.
Shuttle times are Thursday (6 a.m. to 7 p.m.), Friday (6 a.m. to 7 p.m.), Saturday (6 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and Sunday (6 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
For Uber and Lyft rideshares, pickups and dropoffs for fans are located at Parking Lot A, which is Upper Sherman Park just off the intersection of 22nd St. and Kiwanis Ave.
Fans can also use the bike trail to walk, run or bike to the tournament on the Sioux Falls Bike Trail. A bike valet will be available to store bicycles.
Any bag larger than a 6-inch by 6-inch purse, which includes carrying cases, backpacks, camera bags and chair bags are not allowed. Allowed bags include small purses (smaller than 6x6x6), see-through clear bags (12x6x12), 1-gallon plastic freezer bag and medically necessary or diaper bags.
All fans will enter the venue through metal detectors. You can see a list of allowed items like collapsible chairs without chair bags, mobile phones, umbrellas without sleeves, portable radios with headsets, binoculars without cases and seat cushions without cases.
Cell phone policy
Smartphones and cell phones are allowed into the Sanford International, but fans will need to have phones be on silent at all times and the flash may not be used. Fans can take photos, video and audio throughout the tournament but it can only be used for personal uses like social media.
Phone calls are allowed in designated areas and officials ask fans to be respectful of ongoing play. Failure to comply with policies may result in removal and voided tickets.
What to wear
Keep an eye on the forecast. The latest forecast from KELOLAND Live Doppler HD Storm Center shows warm and windy temperatures for Thursday with highs at 89 degrees, while Friday is expected to be cooler in the 70s with sunshine after early morning storms. Saturday and Sunday highs are expected to be in the 80s with plenty of sunshine.
Tournament officials ask fans to wear comfortable shoes and clothing in anticipation of walking throughout the golf course.
Last year, the Sanford International was one of the first major sporting events to allow fans. Sanford Health has been providing COVID-19 testing for the PGA and PGA Champions Tour since June 2020. On Wednesday, the players with the Champions Tour thanked the Sanford mobile testing lab workers during a special breakfast.
Officials have said at PGA events, Sanford Health has conducted more than 30,000 COVID-19 tests and only 20 have resulted in positive cases.
Aberson specifically thanked front line health care workers and noted many nurses and doctors won’t make it out to the tournament because they’ll be taking care of patients this weekend.
“We continue to implore the public to get vaccinated,” Aberson said. “If they are going to come out to the golf course, there’s plenty of opportunity to spread out and distance themselves.”
In addition, anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, can receive one during the tournament Friday through Sunday. Sanford Health will be providing COVID-19 vaccines at a medical tent by the No. 9 green.
“They can come out to the golf course and we’ll give them their COVID vaccine. It’s that important,” Aberson said.
Spots to see at the Sanford International
Brewster said activities and concessions continue to get “bigger and better” for the Sanford International.
New this year will be a new merchandise pavilion, which allows shoppers views of the ninth and 10 holes on either side of the tent.
“It looks great and it’s also a great place to watch golf,” Brewster said about the new merchandise pavilion.
Another fan favorite location is called the The Ranch, sponsored by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council. The Ranch is a lounge area where fans can eat and drink, while also watching other sporting events, including college football games on Saturday and NFL football games on Sunday.
For kids, a GreatLIFE playzone can be found between holes No. 10 and 9. A full map of the golf course can be seen below.