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BMW Championship makes a great course for Chicago’s golf appetite

The par-5 18th hole Conway Farms Lake Forest could produce an exciting finish. | J. Geil~for Sun-Times Media

The par-5 18th hole at Conway Farms in Lake Forest could produce an exciting finish. | J. Geil~for Sun-Times Media

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BMW CHAMPIONSHIP AT A GLANCE

What: 2013 BMW Championship, third leg of PGA’s FedExCup playoffs.

When: Tournament is Thursday through Sunday, practice rounds Monday through Wednesday, with pro-ams on Monday and Wednesday.

Where: Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest. Free general spectator parking at
1 West Everett Road, Mettawa, between Riverwoods Road and St. Mary’s Road. In addition, free shuttles will run from both Lake Forest Metra stations from 6  a.m. to 7 p.m. all week.

The field: Top 70 players in the FedEx Cup rankings, competing for $8 million purse, including $1.44 million to champion. Top 30 players are eligible for Tour championship in Atlanta.

TV: Golf Channel, 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; Golf Channel noon to 2 p.m. Saturday; Ch. 5, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday; Golf Channel, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday; Ch.  5, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: Practice rounds (Monday through Wednesday), $10. Tournament days (Thursday through Sunday), $40 ($55 at the gate). Weekly badge, $100. Fairway Club, $75-$85 daily, or $195 weekly. Juniors 16 and under, free admission when accompanied by an adult.

For more information: bmwchampionshipusa.com or 847-724-4600.

Updated: October 9, 2013 7:43PM



How low the scores will go at the BMW Championship, which begins Thursday at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, is difficult to say.

‘‘You can shoot 62 or 76,’’ said Barrington native Scott Langley, adding that wind — or lack of it — will be a big factor at the 7,149-yard, par-71 layout. ‘‘The wind can come up out of nowhere in Chicago. You’re not totally exposed to it, but the wind swirling in and out of the trees sometimes can wreak havoc.’’

Then again, in the six years since the Western Open name yielded to a German automaker, the champion has averaged more than 16-under par, including the 20-under Rory McIlroy shot at Crooked Stick outside Indianapolis last year.

So take the under — the way under — if you have to choose.

One thing, though, is pretty clear: Golf fans will be coming out in droves as one of the best stretches of golf the Chicago area has ever seen wraps up.

It began a year ago with a dramatic Ryder Cup at Medinah in which a Sunday collapse shattered Team USA’s plans. It continued with the Encompass Championship at North Shore in Glenview in June, the first Champions Tour tournament here in more than a decade.

Now comes the BMW, which is expected to lure about 125,000 spectators to Conway this week. The crowd could swell beyond 30,000 on Sunday, when 30 players will advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta from the BMW’s field of the top 70 players on the PGA tour.

‘‘The golf fans of Chicago have responded to us coming back after being out of town last year,’’ said Western Golf Association vice president Vince Pellegrino, the tournament’s director. ‘‘Tickets sales have been great. For corporate hospitality, we’ve exceeded our goals. And we set our goals very high.’’

Like the Encompass, the BMW, which has moved to the North Shore after being played at Cog Hill for the last two decades, seems to be benefitting from its location, which is convenient to the many golfers in the north suburbs. While Cog Hill enjoyed some great moments with Tiger Woods, a private club such as Conway Farms has proven to be a great foundation for the BMW, and the proximity to golf-crazy Wisconsin hasn’t hurt, either.

That support is important to the WGA, which uses the BMW as the fund-raising bedrock for its Evans Scholars program, which awards scholarships to caddies. After playing at Crooked Stick last year, the BMW will go west to Cherry Hills in suburban Denver next year. The tournament is tentatively scheduled to return to Conway in two years.

‘‘We’re based in Chicago,’’ Pellegrino said. ‘‘We’d like to continue coming back to this market. The reality is, we’ve gone to some golf-starved markets and the support has been tremendous. But this year’s championship is shaping up to be as great for the WGA and, more importantly, the Evans Scholars Foundation, which is why we’ve chosen in years past to take it out of the Chicago market, to raise more money.’’

Email: hgould@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HerbGould



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