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Len Ziehm On Golf

WGA: Why BMW Is Moving

The Western Golf Association’s decision to move the BMW Championship out of Chicago again wasn’t a surprise. After all, the event did very well at Bellerive in St. Louis in 2008 and the PGA Tour players’ response to Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course during the 2010 tournament was less than enthusiastic.

Still, going to Cherry Hills in Denver in 2014 is hard for this Chicago golf devotee to swallow.

When the WGA took the tournament to Bellerive it was understandable. Cog Hill was undergoing a renovation.

When the WGA announced that the BMW would be played at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in 2012 that was understandable, too. After all, the Ryder Cup matches were coming to Medinah, and that event would surely take the spotlight over an annual PGA Tour event.

In going to Cherry Hills, though, the WGA is clearly indicating its PGA Tour event will be a roving tournament again — just like it was from 1899 to 1962. The decision to base the tournament at Chicago courses then made sense and — much as I hate to admit it — the WGA’s decision to move the event around again is based in logic, too.

The WGA’s role is to raise money for the Evans Scholars Foundation and its scholarships for caddies. The PGA Tour stop does a good job of that, wherever the event is held, but it might do better with visits to more golf-starved locations. The WGA was delighted with the staging in Bellerive and expects similarly warm responses in Indianapolis and Denver.

Unfortunately, what’s good for the WGA won’t be so good for Chicago area golf fans. We’ve grown accustomed to having an annual visit from the PGA Tour, and that doesn’t figure to continue. Cog Hill has the BMW tourney this September, then who knows?

The Jemsek family had hoped to keep the event at its Cog Hill facility in 2013, and even made the effort of hiring well-respected young course superintendent Scott Pavalko during the winter to encourage a contract renewal. Whether Cog Hill, a PGA Tour stop since 1991, is under consideration for 2013 will certainly depend on how the course is received by the BMW field in September.

Frankly, when it comes to golf I’m a selfish guy. I want to see a big tourney close to home. And I remember when the WGA was forced to pull the Western Open out of Butler National after 17 good tournaments because of that club’s refusal to have women as members. No suitable course stepped forward to keep the Western in Chicago then except for Cog Hill and, last year aside, Dubsdread has been a good tournament venue.

Perhaps, if not Cog Hill, the WGA will find another Chicago course to host the BMW in 2013. That might rekindle crowd support that has admittedly lagged after the tourney dates shifted from July to September. There are plenty of course possibilities, and perhaps alternating sites from one side of the city to another (say, Olympia Fields to Conway Farms) would perk things up.

I still fondly remember the Western Open, an event I covered non-stop from 1971 to 2006. I wish it had never gone away, but it did. Now the next chapter in Chicago’s rich golf history is about to be written. Let’s hope it’s as good as the last one.

Category: Features