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Pro Golfers In the Twin Cities for the PGA Championship
 Pass Up Hotels in Favor of Private Homes
By Allison Kaplan, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 11, 2009 - If you're camping out at the Oak Ridge Hotel in Chaska, hoping to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Ian Poulter, pack it in.

Professional golfers -- especially the ones you'd want to bump into -- in town this week for the PGA Championship avoid obvious accommodations. They prefer to rent private homes near Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska.

And despite rumors about top golfers trucking in their own furniture or installing a Jacuzzi at some lucky local's home, the volunteer in charge of housing for the tournament said the guys aren't divas. The only special request was for a crib.

At least 50 players have rented homes within a couple of miles of Hazeltine. They could have had their pick of Lake Minnetonka estates but opted for proximity over luxury, said PGA Accommodations Chairwoman Kathy Norton. Only one player is staying more than eight miles from the course.

Norton refused to name names, to protect the players' privacy.

The search for rental homes started months ago with members of Hazeltine. Finding homeowners willing to turn over their bed to Woods or his competitors was not a tough sell. Homeowners stand to pocket as much as $7,000 for the week. Homes typically rent for $800 to $1,000 per bedroom. Many of the homeowners have cabins they can escape to for the week, Norton said.

Offers came in unsolicited from across the Twin Cities. Norton capped it at 70. Pictures and descriptions of the properties were

posted on a Web site only PGA golfers could access. The houses ranged from two-bedroom townhouses to six-bedroom homes.

"No crazy mansions," Norton said. "We have everything from modest to executive level."

She dealt mainly with wives and assistants to find the rentals. The top request was for beds big enough to fit a 6-foot-5 caddy. Some asked about the number of televisions, but not much else.

"They're working," Norton said. "They're not here to play."

The last time Woods was in town for the PGA Championship in 2002, he stayed at former Minnesota Twins catcher Greg Olson's home in Bearpath in Eden Prairie. Now a real estate broker for the gated community, Olson worked through a contact instead of the traditional route and offered Woods use of his home for expenses only.

This time, Olson's home wasn't large enough, because Woods has added two children and a wife to his entourage, which usually includes a manager, an assistant, his caddy and a chef.

In 2002, Woods worked out at the Bearpath fitness center on the practice days before the tournament started. Mostly, Woods stayed in the house, which sits on a secluded lot, emerging a couple of times in the evening to walk around the neighborhood.

"Of course, everyone was star-struck," Olson said. "But they waved and left him alone."

Olson said an assistant came to town the day before Woods to ready the house. Woods' group left it in pristine condition.

"These guys do this all the time," Olson said. "They just want a place where they can stay in and concentrate on golf."

Of course, every player has his own way to unwind.

"I heard from one homeowner who rented in '02 that the pro swept out his garage and left it in better condition than when he got there," Norton said.

As for the players' wives, Norton said, they want what any suburban homeowner would look for: parks for the kids and nearby grocery stores.

In the midst of all this modest nesting, the Twin Cities' swankiest hotels are not complaining.

The Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis is virtually sold out all week. A good chunk of that is PGA related -- managers, marketers, corporate sponsors -- said hotel sales director Kim Nevins. A few blocks away, the Chambers Hotel also is at capacity for the week, thanks to some PGA-related traffic and a lot of models and entertainers in town for the other big event of the week, Macy's Glamorama fashion extravaganza featuring musical performances by Ne-Yo and Kristinia DeBarge.

Said Chambers general manager Cliff Atkinson, "It's one of the stronger weeks of the summer."

Allison Kaplan can be reached at 651-228-5116.


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