Home Course: Kiawah’s Roger Warren

By:Bob Gillespie

Date:8/27/2014

South Carolina's Roger Warren, President of Kiawah Island Resort
South Carolina's Roger Warren, President of Kiawah Island Resort

In 2005, when the PGA of America announced plans to stage its 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, many golf fans probably had no idea who Roger Warren was — which was just the way he wanted it.

Kiawah Island Resort’s president and, that year, president of the PGA of America, the Illinois native was naturally excited about hosting South Carolina’s first men’s major championship. But recognizing the possibility of a conflict of interest, Warren recused himself from discussions that brought the PGA Championship to Pete Dye’s golf creation alongside the Atlantic.

“When I came to Kiawah in 2003 (from the Chicago area), I knew (Kiawah Resort owner Bill) Goodwin had been talking to the PGA about it,” he says, “but I didn’t try to influence them. At the same time, when the decision was made (at a PGA board meeting held at Kiawah), I was comfortable taking it to them for a vote.”

The Ocean Course already had a history with the PGA, starting with 1991’s “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup and including the 2005 Club Professional Championship and, as a test run for 2012, the 2007 Senior PGA Championship. Add Warren’s track record, and it was a slam dunk.

Two years removed from Rory McIlroy’s eight-shot PGA triumph, Warren looks back on a week that, he says, “gave everyone who attended or watched on TV a broader perspective on Kiawah, Charleston and South Carolina.” He says that despite some logistical and weather miscues, “I think we all benefited from (hosting the event). We’ve seen an uptick in business as a result, and I think it’ll be a benefit in the future.”

It’s a future that Warren believes could include another PGA Championship. “We’re in continuing discussions with the PGA of America, and I’m confident that will take place,” he says. “They have a strong viewpoint of the Ocean Course.”

If another big event comes to Kiawah, Warren likely will be right in the middle of it. “I intend for this to be my last job,” he says. “We’re planning more growth here — maybe another hotel, housing, improvements to the golf courses (including renovations at Osprey Point and Cougar Point) — a lot of things that excite me.

“I’m not interesting in retiring and doing nothing. I think I could enjoy another 10 years here.” Working with a second major would fit right into that.

Hometown: Galesburg, Ill.

Bio: Director of golf, The Village Links at Glyn Ellyn, 1985-91; general manager, Seven Bridges Golf Club, 1991-2003; director of golf, Kiawah Island Resort, 1991-2005; and president, 2005-present.

Highlights: President of the PGA of America, 2005-07; under Warren, Kiawah’s Ocean Course hosted the 2003 World Cup of Golf, 2007 Senior PGA and 2012 PGA Championship, the first men’s major in South Carolina.

Where I play: “One of the things I’ve enjoyed in this region is the wealth of great golf courses. The Country Club of Charleston and Yeamans Hall are both Seth Raynor designs, both unique and exciting every time you play them. Besides our courses (Ocean Course, Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Cougar Point and Oak Point), I also like the two private (Kiawah Island Club) courses, Cassique and the River Course. I’ve had the opportunity to play courses around the state, and Sage Valley near Graniteville — I really enjoyed that. There is such a wealth of great golf courses in South Carolina; if you love golf, this is a place to live and visit … the golf here is, I think, equal to that of any major metro area.”

Where I eat: “I love food, and my wife (Mary) and I love going out. In Chicago, you had a plethora of food places and different kinds of food, and here in Charleston, there are so many choices, too. We like Fulton Five, an Italian place. On Sunday for breakfast, we go to Sunrise Bistro, an outstanding little place. It’s hard to name all the places here – I don’t want to leave someone out – but we like Slightly North of Broad, High Cotton. And there’s so many new ones coming. If you love food, you almost have too many choices.”

What I do for fun: “We like to walk on the beach for exercise, and we play a lot of golf. We’re so blessed to live in this resort, where it’s hard not to find activities. In Charleston, too, there are so many things to walk and see. We go to the Farmers Market at Marion Square, and to Freshfields, where you see so many vendors, so many kinds of food. We love to walk around downtown, and we’ve even taken carriage rides like tourists. There’s also a number of rooftop bars where you can look at the city, have a drink. This is a place with so many options for having fun; if you’re not happy, it’s your own fault.”

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