Golf is booming. While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many sports and leisure activities, golf is an exception. The sport allows players to be active, connect with nature and be social — all in a safe and relaxed environment. These statements are especially true and correct about golf in Chicago.
The most recent numbers from the National Golf Foundation report that the number of rounds played during October 2020 in the East North Central sector of the US, which includes Chicago, was ahead by +36.5% over 2019, and up by over 10.8% for the entire year to date. And while many national golf organizations such as the National Golf Course Owners Association, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and the National Golf Foundation regard Chicago as one of the prime markets for golf, major professional golf tours will be bypassing Chicago for 2021, and perhaps for a few more years beyond.
For the past ten years Chicago golf fans have been blessed with the opportunity to attend many major golf tournaments in person. With changes made by the PGA Tour to the traditional dates and format of the Western Open, the revised BMW Championship was held at Conway Farms Golf Club in 2013, 2015, and 2017; it was contested at Medinah Country Club in 2019 and the COVID-19 version was played at Olympia Fields Country Club in 2020. In its run at Conway Farms, the 2013 BMW Championship was named by the PGA Tour as its “Tournament of the Year” and also claimed the “Best On-Site Staging” tournament award by the PGA Tour.
2018 was a banner year for golf tournament viewing in Chicago, as the inaugural playing of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship was contested at Chicago Golf Club during July, as was the Constellation Senior Players Championship over at Exmoor Country Club. One month earlier Kemper Lakes Golf Club hosted the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Also in the past decade there were two very exciting team competitions in the Chicago area. We witnessed the ‘meltdown at Medinah’ as Team USA faced Team Europe in the 2012 Ryder Cup matches. Then in 2016 at the Merit Club in Libertyville, Team USA battled and prevailed over seven challenger countries in the UL International Crown.
Lest we forget, top amateurs and the PGA Champions Tour also competed here in Chicago. The 2005 Walker Cup was hosted at Chicago Golf Club, and Bryson DeChambeau scored a convincing victory, 7 & 6, versus Derek Bard at Olympia Fields in the 2015 United States Amateur Championship. The PGA Champions Tour Encompass Championship was contested at North Shore Country Club from 2013 to 2015.
However, as the upcoming professional golf season approaches, Chicago golf fans will be starving for live, in-person, tournament viewing, and the mix of professional golf tours will place local golf fans on a limited diet as our usual main entree, the BMW Championship, will be played at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, MD in 2021, and at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, DE in 2022. The 2021 LPGA schedule has yet to be announced but its menu shows no plans for a stop in Chicago. Fortunately the Korn-Ferry Tour will provide an appetizer for us as the Evans Scholars Invitational tournament is scheduled for the dates of May 26-30 at The Glen Club in Glenview.
There is light at the (far) end of the tunnel as the PGA of America has announced that the 2026 edition of the Presidents Cup will be played at Medinah Country Club. “Medinah Country Club’s members are honored to host the 2026 Presidents Cup matches on our famed Course #3, adding to our 90-year history of hosting golf’s most prestigious championships, and producing some of golf’s most memorable outcomes,” said Michael Scimo, Medinah’s 2026 Presidents Cup Bid Leader. “The club is excited about providing a terrific venue for the teams and fans from around the world to experience one of the premier events on golf’s biennial calendar. We also acknowledge and appreciate the strong support we have received from the PGA TOUR, DuPage County, and the Chicago Sports Commission that helped bring the 2026 Presidents Cup matches to Medinah Country Club.” Actual tournament dates for the 2026 Presidents Cup will be announced at a later date, so there is plenty of time to learn the lyrics of “Hail To The Chief”.