In the past six years this would have been a big week in Chicago golf. During five of those years the PGA Tour made its annual stop at Cog Hill, in Lemont, for the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup playoff event. Only in 2008 was there no event – and that was because Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course was undergoing a renovation.
This year is different. Chicago is no longer an annual stop for the PGA Tour. The BMW begins Thursday at Crooked Stick, in Carmel, Ind., and the Western Golf Assn. will apparently bring it to Chicago in only alternate years. In 2013 it’ll be played at Conway Farms, in Lake Forest. In 2014 it goes to Cherry Hills, in Denver. Then, who knows? Sponsorship issues could factor in.
Anyway, the WGA did the smart thing. Though Chicago has supported an annual PGA Tour event since 1962, when the event was called the Western Open, the market would have been hard-pressed to support both an annual tournament and the Ryder Cup matches, which come to Medinah at the end of September.
The BMW Championship should thrive at Crooked Stick, with the top 70 players on the FedEx point standings competing for an $8 million purse and 30 spots in next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. In a normal year that event would climax the PGA Tour season, but this time it’ll be more a warmup to the Ryder Cup than anything else.
And Chicago won’t be without a good spectator event even with the BMW Championship missing. The United States Golf Assn. brings its 32nd U.S. Mid-Amateur to Conway Farms and another Lake Forest private club, Knollwood, beginning on Saturday (SEPT 8). It’s the national championship for players 25 and over.
The second Mid-Am, in 1982, was played at Knollwood with Elgin’s Bill Hoffer taking the title. This time Knollwood, freshened by a 2009 renovation by architect Keith Foster, and Conway Farms will host stroke play qualifying rounds for the 264 finalists on Saturday and Sunday. Then Conway will be the site for the match play portion of the championship next Monday though the 36-hole championship match on Thursday, Sept. 13. Admission is free to all the sessions.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a better combination of courses,’’ said Bill McCarthy, director of both the Mid-Am and U.S. Amateur Public Links championships for the USGA. “With Knollwood as the companion course this site selection wasn’t automatic – but almost.’’
Mid-Am defender has Masters memories
Randy Lewis of Alma, MI., is the defending champion in the Mid-Am. His victory last year at Shadow Hawk, a Texas facility, was noteworthy in that Lewis became the tourney’s oldest champion. He was 54 when he won.
The Mid-Am champion gets a berth in the next year’s Masters tournament, and Lewis won’t forget what that was like – even though he didn’t come close to surviving the 36-hole cut.
“I shot 81-78 and didn’t play well,’’ he said. “Augusta (National) was so long and you got no roll. I had to lay up on all the par-5s.’’
Lewis spent seven winter weeks in Florida preparing for the Masters experience and played practice rounds with Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. In the tourney he was part with Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain at Medinah, and Robert Garrigus.
“I was really nervous on the first tee,’’ said Lewis, “but Garrigus hit his tee shot left and Olazabal’s went right. I killed mine right down the middle.’’
Lewis’ chances of defending his Mid-Am title don’t appear good. He’s been battling a pulled hamstring and “horrible’’ tendinitis, both of which have limited his tournament play this summer.
Here and there
Those wanting to attend this year’s BMW can get tickets at Crooked Stick’s main entrance. They’re priced at $20 for today’s Gardner Heidrick Pro-Am and $75 for the four tournament rounds….Cog Hill is setting up its Dubsdread course this week with the same tee and pin positions that were used in the last BMW Championship there a year ago….The PGA of America has announced that youngsters 17-and-under will receive free admission to the Ryder Cup practice rounds for the first time in event history. Each ticket-buying adult can bring two youngsters to the practice sessions on Sept. 25-27. The youth admission tickets will be available at the tourney’s admission sales/will call office….The Illinois Senior Open runs Monday and Tuesday (SEPT 10-11) at McHenry Country Club and the Chicago District Golf Assn. Mid-Amateur is Tuesday at Bowes Creek, in Elgin….KemperSports staffer Amy Pendergast has been named PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Resort Facilities. Pendergast is based at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes, one of the facilities operated by Northbrook-based KemperSports.