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Len Ziehm On Golf

PGA women’s event will have an unusual two-year run at Chicago courses

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Usually the PGA of America, PGA Tour, U.S. Golf Assn. and Ladies PGA announce their tournament sites at least five years in advance and, until Wednesday, Chicago seemed largely out of the mix.

The USGA has no Chicago tournament scheduled after next week’s U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields and the LPGA had only next year’s International Crown team event at Rich Harvest on its schedule. The PGA Tour comes on an every-other-year basis for the BMW Championship.

All that changed with some strange scheduling announced by the PGA of America. Its newest event, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, will be held at Olympia Fields in 2017 and Kemper Lakes, in Hawthorn Woods, in 2018. The clubs are roughly 60 miles apart.

That tournament is part of a new partnership between the PGA of America and LPGA. It was held for the first time this year at Westchester Country Club in New York and it’ll be played at Sahalee, in Washington, in 2016. Inbee Park has won the event the last three years.

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – long known as the LPGA Championship since its first staging in 1955 — is considered one of the major events for LPGA players. Usually events of such prominence are either held annually at the same site or are moved around the country. Playing back-to-back in the same area is highly unusual.

“I know that those two clubs will do an incredible job hosting the major championship for the women,’’ said Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America. “This will be a special moment in time for the LPGA and women’s golf in the Chicago area.’’

“There could be some great efficiencies in going to Chicago in back to back years,’’ offered Pete Bevacqua, chief executive officer of the PGA of America. “The clubs obviously have a great relationship working together to make sure that we deliver a wonderful experience in 2017, and that same group of people, plus more, can come out and experience it again in 2018. We can use that really to the advantage of the championship.’’

Suddenly Chicago has become a hotspot for women’s golf, with the International Crown bringing the world’s top players a year ahead of the two individual majors.

The women will also be playing on courses that have already hosted men’s majors. Olympia Fields most recently hosted the men’s U.S. Open in 2003 and Kemper Lakes hosted the PGA Championship in 1989. Both are private clubs, but Kemper was a public venue when the late Payne Stewart won the PGA there.

The biggest women’s event played at Kemper Lakes also came in its public phase. The 92nd U.S. Women’s Amateur was played there in 1992 and future Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam was the runner-up to Vicki Goetze in that one.