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updated: 1/14/2013 12:42 PM

WGA takes a swing with Chicago Golf Show

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  • The Chicago Golf Show will celebrate its 30th anniversary when it returns next month to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The show also will have a presenting sponsor thanks to the BMW Championship at Conway Farms.

       The Chicago Golf Show will celebrate its 30th anniversary when it returns next month to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The show also will have a presenting sponsor thanks to the BMW Championship at Conway Farms.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer/2012 file

 
 

The Chicago Golf Show will get a big boost for its 30th anniversary staging next month.

Rarely has the show, to be held Feb. 22-24 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, had a presenting sponsor. The last time was in 2009, when South Carolina golf mecca Myrtle Beach took the leadership role.

This time the show will be presented by the BMW Championship, the Western Golf Association's premier event.

If ever there was a win-win situation in golf, this is it. The show needed a high profile link with the PGA Tour, and the BMW Championship has to rekindle interest among Chicago golfers. They didn't get to see the FedEx Cup playoff event last year -- it was held in Indianapolis -- and it'll have a new course for its return to Chicago in September.

Since 1991 the tourney used Cog Hill in Lemont as its Chicago home. This year it'll be staged Sept. 9-15 at Conway Farms, a private facility in Lake Forest.

"We've always had a booth at the show," said Vince Pellegrino, the WGA's tournament director, "but this year we thought we should take a more active role. We're in an educational process, and we'll do everything we can to create awareness. This is another vehicle for us to spread the word about the BMW going to Conway Farms."

Show visitors (usually numbering around 20,000) will find BMW Championship promotional material prominently displayed when they walk through the doors Feb. 22-24, and the first 200 will receive two free tickets to practice rounds for the tourney proper.

The WGA, which raises money for college scholarships for caddies, has found it profitable to move the BMW Championship to golf-starved locations in alternate years and last year underscored the wisdom of doing that. The 2012 BMW, at Crooked Stick, was named the PGA Tour's Tournament of the Year.

While most the WGA's PGA Tour events have been held in Chicago since the first Western Open of 1899, the event will take on a new look in 2013. Conway Farms, the home course of tour star Luke Donald, has never hosted a PGA Tour event.

"In changing locations we've had to start from scratch," said Pellegrino. "We've been working with (officials from) the city of Lake Forest and Lake County for several months. They've been extremely engaged with us, and we're very pleased with the support we've received."

Metamora Fields set to host:

The Illinois PGA will make a major tournament change. The section's last major, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, won't be held at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena -- its longtime home base -- in 2013.

Instead, the event will shift to Metamora Fields, a new course in Peoria. Metamora Fields opened in July, 2011. The layout was designed by PGA Tour veteran D.A. Weibring and his lead architect, Steve Wolfard.

Weibring, who grew up in Quincy and went to college at Illinois State, was the 1987 Western Open champion. His design work includes TPC Deere Run, the site of the PGA Tour's annual John Deere Classic, a tourney that Weibring also won during his days on the circuit.

A longer Western Amateur

The WGA, which will conduct four championships for the first time in 2013, is altering the format of its tradition-rich Western Amateur.

Not only will the Western Am move out of Chicago for the first time in five years, it'll also get a new format. No longer will there be a 36-hole session for the low 44 and ties after the first two rounds of the 72-hole stroke play qualifying.

The July 29-Aug. 4 tourney was moved to the Alotian Club in Arkansas, a move Pellegrino said was made to take advantage of "a unique opportunity to go to a very exclusive place."

Temperatures figure to be higher in Arkansas than they've been in Chicago, so now the field will play 18 holes Tuesday-Friday with the top 16 players settling the title in two days of match play after that. That means the competition will be spread over six days instead of five.

"The Alotian Club isn't like Exmoor or North Shore (Chicago courses that hosted the last two Western Ams)," Pellegrino explained. "Those courses were easy to walk. The Alotian Club is a challenge to walk, with a lot of undulation. It'll be an endurance test."

Pellegrino expects the old format to be in place when the tournament resumes its Chicago rotation in 2014.

Did you know?

• Two more Chicago private clubs will have new head professionals this season. Assistant Brian Brown moved up at Naperville, replacing the retired Jim Arendt, and Brandon Adair is moving from Prestwick to take over at Midlothian.

• Northbrook-based KemperSports has received another honor. It was named Club Management Company of the Year by Boardroom magazine. Kemper added four private facilities to its portfolio in 2012: Rockledge in Florida, Quail Lodge in California, Andover in Kentucky and Victory Ranch in Utah. The award will be presented at the Club Managers Assn. of America World Conference in San Diego next month.

• Northwestern women's coach Emily Fletcher has landed another prize recruit. Minji Luo, the California high school champion, will enroll at NU in the fall. She qualified for both the U.S. Women's Amateur and U.S. Girls Junior Amateur in 2012.

• For more golf news, check out lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be contacted by email at lenziehm@gmail.com.

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