Donald played big role in BMW coming to Conway Farms
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I remember the first time I met Luke Donald.
He was a young guy out of Northwestern, and I was a dork who spent the previous evening at Kohl's searching for semi-appropriate golf slacks -- at a reasonable price.
I figured if I was going to play in a pro-am event with a golfer of Donald's caliber, I might as well look the part.
Who was I kidding?
I neither looked the part, nor, as it turned out, played the part in an event held to promote the inaugural BMW Championship at Cog Hill.
But Donald couldn't have been a better teammate, helping me out wherever he could in that low-key style he retains to this day.
Little could I have figured on that September day in 2007 that I was playing with a guy who one day would be the No. 1 player in the world for 40 weeks. And there's no way I would have ever guessed that one day this unassuming guy would be a guiding force in bringing the BMW to his home course of Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
Not surprisingly, I was wrong on both fronts.
And this week, thanks in large part to Donald's persuasion, Conway Farms will be in the national spotlight as a field of 70 elite players compete not only for the BMW Championship title but for a chance to move on to Atlanta next week where the FedEx Cup champion will be determined.
But just how did it reach this point? How did Donald help secure the BMW at Conway Farms?
It went a little something like this:
"In 2011 when we were approached by the Western Golf Association about potentially hosting the 2013 BMW Championship, and obviously Luke, being a member here since his days at Northwestern and practicing here every Tuesday during those seasons, he kind of fell in love with the golf course," said Todd Marsh, Conway Farms general manager.
"He was very instrumental. He lobbied the PGA Tour, he lobbied the BMW. And being the No. 1 player in the world in 2011 certainly helped us."
But listening to Donald talk about the role he played in bringing the tournament to Lake Forest, one would think that his was nothing more than just an ancillary role. "It's been fun just talking to the guys involved at BMW, the guys involved on the Tour about the course, any kind of changes they were looking for, and it was nice to have an opinion," Donald said.
"I'm not sure if they listened to me or not, but they certainly asked my opinion, and it's nice to see it finally come here."
And the entire process has given him a new perspective on just what it takes to transform a golf course into a tournament-ready golf course.
"I think most of us players, we rock up on Monday or Tuesday and just think it's just been put up the week before, and it's not the case," Donald said. "It's a two-, three-, four-month process of organization, and it's a big deal, and we're very fortunate as players.
"I think just seeing it firsthand being built up gave me more of an appreciation for how lucky we are and what great tournaments we play in and what great sponsors you go through to put on a great event for us."
And now Donald, who admittedly has struggled mightily this season, hopes to regain some of his old form in front of his hometown fans.
It'll take some big-time magic.
"I think someone who was at the pinnacle of the game not too long ago and is now 54th in the FedExCup standings, it's been disappointing," Donald said. "It's been very hard this year.
"But I feel pretty good about where things are headed and I'm excited about the future. I still have time to rescue it this year.
"I'm going to have to do that this week, and that's the beauty of the FedExCup. It takes one good week to kind of rescue a year. And I certainly have that opportunity this week."
On a course he loves.
In his adopted hometown.
With this guy, you never know.
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