In just two weeks, southwest Michigan will be host to the Senior PGA Championship Golf Tournament at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.
Landscape workers are busy beautifying the "Welcome to the City of Benton Harbor" sign located on Main Street.
Dozens of “Welcome Senior PGA Championship” banners have been put up around downtown St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.
Area restaurants, like Schu's Grill & Bar, are also preparing for an influx of people coming to see the much-anticipated tournament.
"We've put new paint on, have new valances, and I have outdoor heaters coming," says owner Larry Schuler.
But with just two weeks until the tournament, some are wondering if those thousands of spectators really will be coming...because there are still plenty of tickets for sale.
"We're doing pretty well. We still have tickets available, but would like to sell out, obviously," says Terry Cooper, who is in charge of tickets sales for the PGA.
Area hotels like the Boulevard Inn & Bistro in downtown St. Joseph were also hoping to sell out. However, of their 84 newly remodeled rooms, 30 to 50 are still available. It's a similar situation at Holiday Inn Express, where only half of their hotel is booked up.
From the beginning, tournament officials have said they expected between 10,000 to 14,000 people to come to the tournament each day. That led many residents to apply for special permits to rent out their homes. Those homes are listed on the website, BeOurGuestMI.com. The agent for this company, Nancy McDonall, says of the 120 homes listed, only 10 have been rented...not by spectators, but players or people who are working the tournament.
And there's plenty of work going on at Harbor Shores. Construction crews are busy installing the main score board and putting up massive tents at the entrance to the tournament. Crews are busy grooming the greens, and on hole #15 private hospitality suites are being installed. They were just brought to town from the Kentucky Derby.
Aaron Williams, Harbor Shores general manager, says they are on schedule. Williams says he's not worried about the number of people that will come through the turnstiles, but is focusing on making a great first impression to everyone watching.
"You don't want to focus too much on numbers as much as we do know that there will be 50 million households around the world watching the tournament," he said.
Schuler feels the same way. It's not about the numbers, it's about trying to make a new visitor become a return customer.
"It's our first opportunity to make a first great impression. We want to make a great impression so they will want to come back," says Schuler who is also planning on changing his menu to offer food items featuring golf terms, like the "Wedge Salad." He's also going to have some prize drawings and giveaways during tournament week.
WSBT put in a request to find out from PGA officials how many tickets have been sold up to this point, but have not been given that number.
The PGA still has week-long tickets packages available at a cost of $150 and daily tickets are $50.
To purchase tickets you can go to www.SPGA2012.com or by calling 1-800-PGA-GOLF
Harbor Shores, which is a public course, will be shutting down on May 15 to finish preparing for the tournament. They will reopen on June 1. The tournament runs from Wednesday, May 23 through Sunday, May 27. It will be broadcast on NBC.
The Harbor Shores development and golf course remain a controversial topic for some in Benton Harbor.
A group led by Revered Edward Pinkney recently sent a letter to the PGA making allegations against the city and businesses involved. The group calls the golf tournament an exploitation of the people of Benton Harbor and wants 25 percent of the proceeds from the event to go to the people.
The Benton Harbor Leadership Caucus, made up of area pastors and business leaders, doesn't agree.
“We’re hoping that Mr. Pinkney will take his blinders off and be able to see the benefit to the entire community, rather than be selfish and continue to fight and heal an old wound,” said Rev. Kenneth Gavin with the Second Baptist Church.
The caucus says the majority of people in and around Benton Harbor support the Senior PGA Championship. They thanked organizers for coming to town, creating jobs and helping the economy.