Tour renegotiating S.F.'s BMW contract to accommodate Conway Farms

Writing from Chicago

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The PGA Tour and the city of San Francisco are renegotiating the contract that calls for the BMW Championship to be held at Harding Park, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

Doing so would allow Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest to host it in 2013 and 2015, which the club is requesting. It would also fulfill the sponsoring Western Golf Association's desire – and contract – to play at least one of every two BMWs in the Chicago area.

The Tour wants to push back a BMW appearance at Harding Park and add two Schwab Cup playoff tournaments – that's the Champions Tour finale – to make up for not playing the BMW in San Francisco in either 2013 or 2014.

Harding Park general manager Phil Ginsburg told the Chronicle the plan calls for playing the BMW at the course in 2016, and adding two Schwab Cups from 2017 to 2019.

"This could turn out to be a win-win for everyone," Ginsburg said. "It gives the Tour needed flexibility, strengthens our existing agreement and brings extra tournaments to Harding for the next decade."

Tour executive David Pillsbury told the Chronicle that the contract with the city calls for the BMW, traditionally known as the Western Open, to be played in one of the next two years. Previously, it had been reported here and elsewhere that the BMW had to be played at Harding Park by 2015. The 2014 tournament is slated for Cherry Hills Country Club, near Denver, leaving 2013 as the only date to fulfill the current contract.

"We've told all the parties the same thing throughout this dialogue: Look, we have a contract with the city of San Francisco to bring the penultimate playoff event there in 2013 or '14," Pillsbury told the Chronicle's Ron Kroichick.

"Until we are able to secure approval from the city to do otherwise, we plan on honoring our contractual agreement. We're hopeful, but it's not done until it's done."

If the deal is approved by the San Francisco brass and the double visit to Conway is locked in, the BMW schedule would line up like this:

2012: Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Ind.

2013: Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest

2014: Cherry Hills Country Club, Cherry Hills Village, Colo.

2015: Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest

2016: Harding Park Golf Course, San Francisco

If the Tour and San Francisco can't reach an agreement, everything aside from this year's visit to Crooked Stick and the 2014 jaunt to the Rockies is up in the air.

– Tim Cronin


Coming in April: Illinois Golfer in print

Writing from Chicago

Monday, February 13, 2012

Starting in April, Illinois Golfer, heretofore available only through this website, will be available to golfers statewide in print as well.

Illinois Golfer, a monthly newspaper covering every facet of the game, will be packed with news and features about the people and places Illinois golfers should know about. Illinois Golfer will be available for free at public and private golf courses throughout the state. Readers will also be able to subscribe and get each issue delivered for $20 annually.

Barring changes to accomodate late-breaking news, the premiere issue includes:

• A season preview, anticipating a year culminating with the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.

• The first of a two-part series on the state of the game in Illinois.

• What’s new in golf equipment, as seen at the golf shows.

Illinois Golfer’s spring fashion preview.

• An essay on why the Masters Tournament matters.

• Columns by publisher Tim Cronin and contributing writers Jim Owczarski and Mike Spellman. The trio has covered golf on all levels.

• Illinois’ most complete monthly public golf directory.

The website will include breaking news, commentary, and links to golf news elsewhere on the Internet. Most of the print edition’s features will be exclusive to the publication.

Look for Illinois Golfer at your favorite course!

– Tim Cronin


BMW to Conway Farms? Yes, if...

Writing from Chicago

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It was about three weeks ago that a source close to Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest confirmed that the club and the Western Golf Association had agreed to hold the 2013 BMW Championship – the Western Open in days past – at the elite north suburban course.

So why no announcement? When asked about the delay, a WGA spokesperson said, "It'll be a while."

Here's why, according to another source close to the situation: Conway Farms also wants the 2015 BMW, and wants an agreement for it now, so both can be announced at the same time.

Easy to accomplish, right? One would think the stars were lined up.

After all, the WGA, stung by player criticism of the revised Dubsdread layout at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, wanted a new Chicago-area site. Conway Farms proved a better site than The Glen Club, the Glenview layout that was also in the running. The WGA wanted Conway, a club that emphasizes walking and caddies, and thus is a big supporter of the Evans Scholars Foundation, the WGA's caddies to college charity arm. Conway wanted the WGA for the prestige, headaches of staging a big-time tournament aside.

But 2015 is taken. The PGA Tour's deal with San Francisco calls for Harding Park to host "the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup playoffs," to paraphrase the contract's terms, no later that 2015. The BMW is that tournament.

So the Tour, by contract, has to be in San Francicso in 2015. The WGA is being told by Conway Farms it has to be at Conway Farms in 2015. And, oh by the way, the whispers are that the WGA's deal with the Tour calls for a tournament in Chicago every other year, and Cherry Hills Country Club, just outside of Denver, is hosting the BMW in 2014.

If there's a year between 2014 and 2015, only the Incas know, and their calendar runs out in December.

There is a solution, though it would entail arranging many dominoes, some of which may have already fallen. Move the 2015 BMW to the second week of the playoffs, and switch the tournament played in Boston to Baghdad by the Bay. That would give Conway the BMW it demands, give San Francisco the penultimate tournament its contract requires, and give the Tour a playoff tournament on the West Coast for the first time since the Tour Championship was played at the Olympic Club well over a decade ago.

Easy, right? Not necessarily. Details of the Deutsche Bank Championship's contract with the sponsor and the course, Tour-operated TPC Boston, are unknown.

That's why it might be "a while" before the official word is forthcoming. And while it's highly unlikely, what if Conway's brass insist on a 2013-2015 combination and the Tour and WGA can't make it happen? Do they reject the 2013 BMW after all the planning? Not likely, but if that happens, where would the BMW end up?

It would take a while for that question to be answered.

– Tim Cronin


Next show stop, Tinley Park

Writing from Chicago

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The season for golf shows in the Chicago area continues on Friday, Feb. 17 at the Tinley Park Convention Center with the aptly-named Tinley Park Golf Expo. The three-day run begins at noon on the aforementioned Friday. Admission is $5 on Friday, $10 on Saturday and Sunday. Parking is free all three days. There will be a big demo area, big hitter Joe Hajduch will show you how to hit the ball out of the building, and someone will win golf for life at Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park, one of the show's backers.

The following weekend will find the Chicago Golf Show back at its usual stand, the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Admission prices are identical to the Tinley show, but parking in the mammoth Rosemont garage will set you back $11 or so. Chip Beck's on the teaching stage Friday, with Craig Stadler there Saturday and Sunday.

Which show is better to go to? It's hard to say, given that Tinley's expo is the inaugural edition. The place is all but sold out of exhibition space, while the Rosemont show has rebounded in the last couple of years. It may be worth hitting both.

And, for the really ambitious with gas in their tank, this Friday starts a three-day run for the West Michigan Golf Show at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. Friday's hours are from 3-8 p.m. Central time, with doors opening Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. Central. Don't say we didn't warn you.

– Tim Cronin


Golf Show season begins today

Writing from Chicago

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Groundhog Day, which, as all Bill Murray fans know, means repeating the same thing until you come to the last reel of the movie, or something like that. It also means the first golf show of the winter season, a new one. In contrast to the bigger shows at the Tinley Park and Rosemont convention centers, this one is focused on equipment, and is at a golf course.

Visit Cantigny Golf in Wheaton today from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., where a number of manufacturers, including Titleist, TaylorMade, Nike, Cleveland, and Chicagoland-based Tour Edge and Wilson Staff, will be showing their wares for the 2012 season, less than a week after their formal introduction at the PGA show in Orlando. Admission is $10, which seems a bit steep, but prizes will be awarded every half-hour and someone will win a Cantigny foursome. Children 12 and under get in free.

– Tim Cronin