The PGA Tour and the BMW Championship return this week to Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, IL, located about 30 miles north of downtown Chicago. This event was contested last year at Cherry Hill Country Club in Colorado where Billy Horschel defeated Bubba Watson by two strokes. Horschel would go on to win the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and also claim the FedEx Cup.
The last time the BMW Championship was contested at Conway Farms was in 2013 when Zach Johnson took home the winner's purse of $1,440,000. Jim Furyk made history at the 2013 event when he shot a 12-under-par 59 in the second round, becoming just the sixth player to shoot 59 in a PGA Tour event.
Before it became part of the FedEx Cup Playoff Series in 2007, The BMW Championship was known as the Western Open and was first contested in 1899 at The Glen View Club which is located in Golf, IL. For over 100 years, the Western Open, and now the BMW Championship, has been managed by the Western Golf Association, which is one of the United States’ oldest golf organizations.
In addition to the BMW Championship, the WGA sponsors three top amateur tournaments, including the prestigious Western Amateur, which was won this year by Dawson Armstrong with a dramatic hole-out for eagle from a greenside bunker. In addition to these events, The Western Golf Association has administered the Chick Evans Scholarship Program for deserving caddies since its inception in 1930. There are currently 840 Evans Scholars attending top universities in the United States, with a significant portion of the proceeds for these scholarships being generated by the BMW Championship.
Before 1961, the Western Open was played at numerous top golf facilities in cities throughout the Midwest and the West Coast including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. Starting in 1962 the Western Open found a consistent home in the Chicagoland area at top courses such as Medinah Country Club, Beverly Country Club and Olympia Fields Country Club.
From 1974 until 1990, the Western Open was contested at the challenging Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, IL. The tournament next moved to Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, which hosted the event from 1991 to 2006.
While at Cog Hill, Tiger Woods won the Western Open three times (1997, 1999, 2003) and the BMW Championship twice (2007, 2009). Cog Hill ultimately fell out of favor of many PGA Tour professionals, including Tiger, after a 2008 renovation by Rees Jones. The BMW Championship left Cog Hill after the 2011 event and the 2012 tournament, which was won by Rory McIlroy, visited Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, IN for the first time.
After returning to Crooked Stick once again next year, The BMW Championship will be back at Conway Farms in 2017. It was also recently announced that Medinah Country Club will be the host venue for the tournament in 2019.
Medinah hosted the Western Open three times, including the 1966 Western Open, which was won by Billy Casper. The facility has also hosted five major championships in its history including three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975, 1990) and two PGA Championships (1999, 2006), as well as the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Walter Lis is the managing editor of ChicagoGolfReport.com. Launched in 2010, ChicagoGolfReport.com is a digital-only news and information resource covering everything golf in Chicago, including the latest news about local golf facilities, golf events and golf instruction.