By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Feb 05, 2015 at 1:03 PM

In late July an early August, Brown Deer Park Golf Course will once again be taken over by some of the best professional golfers in the world.

No, Jerry Kelly and the PGA Tour are not returning to Milwaukee. No, Michelle Wie and the LPGA Tour isn’t going to come through either.

But the city and the crown jewel of the Milwaukee County Parks golf courses are back on the professional golf landscape with the first PHC Classic, a Symetra Tour stop that will bring a regular tour stop back to the city for the first time since the PGA Tour left in 2009.

"We’re bringing pro golf back to Milwaukee County – that’s something I’m pretty excited about," Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said. "I"m grateful, grateful, for the role that Potawatomi plays and Symetra. I’m excited to see big crowds. I know it’s something we can build on."

"We deeply appreciate the partnership that we have enjoyed with the city and the county and is through that partnership that makes this event possible," Potawatomi Hotel & Casino general manager Mike Goodrich said.

The Symetra Tour is the LPGA Tour’s feeder tour in that how the Nationwide Tour sends its top earners to the PGA Tour the following year, the top 10 money earners on the Symetra Tour earn a place on the LPGA Tour.

While the tour has operated for decades under a variety of names – its last stop in Wisconsin was in 2008 at Geneva National in Lake Geneva – its alumnae include Lorena Ochoa, Inbee Park, Grace Park, Vicky Hurst, Mo Martin and Cheyenne Woods, among others.

The event has been more than a year in the making, as Potawatomi Hotel & Casino came aboard as the event’s title sponsor, with the Forest County Potawatomi joining fellow bands across the Midwest in sponsoring tour events.

The PHC Classic will feature a $100,000 purse, and will also be a part of the five-tournament Potawatomi Cup, which includes an additional $50,000 purse for women who perform the best in the different tournaments with Potawatomi support.

As golf fans in Wisconsin have learned, the sponsor need to be on board before a tour to make it work – and last – but Milwaukee was an important market for the Symetra Tour to establish itself in.

"Having a market that we feel is going to embrace the Symetra Tour, as it already has demonstrated an affinity for golf, is big for us," said Mike Nichols, the tour’s chief business officer. "Based on the success that the PGA Tour had here for so many years and with other events that have traveled through, it was just a natural to find a way to get the Symetra Tour here to Milwaukee. Not to mention the fact that with Brown Deer Park Golf Course you’re getting a first class golf course that’s of world-class caliber."

The return of golf is an important one for Milwaukee and the county as well, as an effort has been made to keep Brown Deer Park Golf Course conditioned well enough to not only maintain its national reputation, but to one day bring a professional tour event back to it.

"We have made capital investments," Abele said. "Actually, there are going to be more at Brown Deer. We’re redoing the kitchen, the clubhouse, but you’ve got to make those investments to draw this kind of tour."

With its reputation and history as a former PGA Tour stop, the addition of Brown Deer Park as a tour stop will make it a player-favorite.

"It’s definitely a substantial (golf course) to us," said Kenosha native and University of Wisconsin alumnae Carly Werwie, who is a Symetra Tour member. "I don’t think we’ve played on a golf course that has held a previous PGA or LPGA event. Knowing that, I definitely think a lot of girls will be excited for that, just knowing a PGA event was there and knowing that they’re going to have a good driving range, they’re going to have a good short game area and putting and just having facilities that can handle that amount of players in that week of time."

The tour believes that love Milwaukee and Wisconsin have for golf, and the fact that two U.S. Women’s Opens – held at Blackwolf Run in Kohler – were widely supported, offer an indication that there will be public support for this initial event.
And, should that happen, it may signal to other corporations that Milwaukee is ready for another PGA Tour stop, or a willing host for a new LPGA Tour event.

"The best way to bring tournaments back is have a of people show up," Abele said. "In Milwaukee, if we’re excited about something, we’ll show up."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.