Valhalla Golf Club has been sold by the PGA of America to a group of Louisville investors who want to “continue to bring major championships” to Kentucky, according to new co-owner Jimmy Kirchdorfer.
“Valhalla, for a 36-year-old club, has amazing history,” said Kirchdorfer, an executive with ISCO Industries. “It’s already hosted a Ryder Cup and three major championships. We just saw it as important that this is returned to local ownership. That way, we can control. We know people are going to operate in the best interest of the community.”
Kirchdorfer is a Valhalla board member who joined the club in 2004 and has previously worked with the PGA on events held at the course. Three other well-known local executives joined him in the purchase: former Yum Brands CEO David Novak, Musselman Hotels President Chester Musselman and Junior Bridgeman, a former University of Louisville basketball player who built an entrepreneurial empire following a 12-year run in the NBA.
The PGA, which bought the course from founder Dwight Gahm in 2000, confirmed the sale in a Wednesday press release, and Valhalla members were informed in an email from Keith Reese, the club’s general manager. The sale is effective immediately, according to Kirchdorfer, who did not disclose the cost.
“Valhalla Golf Club has proven itself to be a wonderful test of championship golf, one that is as fair as it is challenging for the top golfers in the world,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson wrote in the release. “We look forward to partnering with the new ownership group on a highly-anticipated 2024 PGA Championship and working with the new owners to continue to have it as one of our championship sites.”
Valhalla, which stands on nearly 500 acres in eastern Jefferson County, is “an icon in the community,” Kirchdorfer said. Last year it was ranked No. 93 in Golf Digest’s list of “America’s 100 greatest golf courses,” the only entry from the Bluegrass State, and it had been the only private club owned and operated by the PGA.
The course was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus ahead of its opening in 1986 and has hosted three PGA Championship tournaments, including a famed victory by Tiger Woods in 2000. It was home to the Ryder Cup in 2008, bringing stars of the sport from around the world to Louisville, and is set to host the PGA Championship once again in 2024.
The 2024 event, which tournament officials say could pump $100 million into the local economy, will not be affected by the sale.
Kirchdorfer, a longtime golf advocate, said he got to work forming a group to bid on Valhalla after members were informed in November that the PGA had been approached by a potential buyer and would entertain other offers. All four buyers are longtime members of the club.
Valhalla’s status brings value to the community, he said, which the ownership group took into consideration. And while some club members expressed concerns over potential redevelopment when it hit the market last year, Kirchdorfer said the 18-hole course isn’t going anywhere.
Instead, the ownership group will work to highlight “Kentucky hospitality,” he said, and “build upon the great tradition and culture that’s already there.” So, concerned club members and others in the Louisville golf community have got that going for them, which is nice.
“Valhalla’s the crown jewel of Kentucky golf, and we wanted it locally owned like it was with the Gahm family,” Kirchdorfer said. “The Gahm family had an amazing vision and took a big risk when they took a farm and hired Jack Nicklaus to build a golf course with the hopes of bringing major championship golf to this community – and they succeeded, which a lot of people don’t.
“We just wanted to make sure that the next owners had the same mission of doing what’s best for Valhalla and the community of Louisville.”
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The new owners have plenty of work to do in the next two years ahead of the PGA Championship set for May 16-19 of 2024. The group plans to invest in the property to ensure it’s a “reflection of our community,” Kirchdorfer said.
An impressive turn at the tournament can send a message to the PGA – which works to promote the game with more than 28,000 members – that Louisville is a capable host for the sport’s biggest moments, according to Kirchdorfer, who previously served as vice chair of a Louisville PGA Championship.
“When we show how much this community will support the ’24 championship, we’re confident they’ll continue to bring more championships,” he said.
Lucas Aulbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502-582-4649 or on Twitter @LucasAulbach.