Sometimes when a team wins a championship, the pundits talk about them being a “team of destiny.” After having a decadent lunch with Conway Farms Golf Club’s General Manager Todd Marsh and Membership Services Coordinator Robin Martin in the club’s beautiful library, I have a hunch they’ll soon be saying the same thing about the two of them.
When word reached Todd two years ago that the Western Golf Association (WGA) may be looking for a new golf course to host one of its premier events—the BMW Championship (formerly called the Western Open)—he knew that Conway Farms Golf Club had a better chance than most at being selected. In 2011, Luke Donald, a Conway Farms’ member, was the number one golfer in the world. And, at Conway Farms Golf Club, walking is encouraged and caddies are regular fixtures on the course—a relevant coincidence, since the BMW Championship is the largest fundraiser for the WGA to fund scholarships for the Evans Scholars Program, a program that pays college tuition and room and board for outstanding caddies.
With the members’ support, Todd and Robin began the process of completing the 50-page RFP. “It forces you to think through everything,” says Robin, who ran the Mid-Amateur Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club last year. “Traffic, security, food—it’s overwhelming, but by the time we completed the paperwork, we knew that we could accommodate this event,” she adds. The team was particularly pleased at their solution for parking. No one should spend more than 10 minutes being shuttled from the parking lot specially reserved for the tournament.
Todd and Robin have worked closely with the City of Lake Forest, Mettawa, and the Lake County Board to finalize the details for the Championship that will begin September 9. “I can’t say enough how great it has been to work with the different cities on our plans for this event,” Todd says. “Everyone has come from a place that we can make this work.” It’s expected that more than 125,000 spectators will visit Conway Farms Golf Club over the course of the Championship week and that the economic impact of this tournament on Lake Forest and surrounding communities will exceed $20 million. At press time, the amount of money raised in selling hospitality sponsorships was more than triple what it had been in previous years.
“We meet with the City of Lake Forest every month—the lines of communication are very open,”explains Robin, who has worked with the Conway Farms community on the effect the tournament will have on those who live near the golf course. “Generally, the Conway Farms residents are very excited about this event. Understandably, there will be some inconveniences they will encounter that week, but overall they’ve been very supportive.”
Even if you’re not a golf fan, the star power this tournament will draw to Lake Forest will be enough to turn your head. “It’s all the greats. Luke. Tiger. Phil. They’re all expected to play,” Todd says. When asked what hotel we might find the players are staying at, Todd gave that knowing shrug and no information. (Darn!)
At the backbone of this tournament are the 1,500 volunteers who give up the better part of a week to help make sure the Championship runs smoothly. “There are actually volunteer junkies,” says Robin with a laugh, remembering a pair who showed up in January when Conway Farms was covered in snow. They wanted to walk the course in anticipation of this September event.
When asked what will make the Championship a success, Todd answers thoughtfully while stirring his Arnold Palmer. “We want exciting play, beautiful weather, and Luke to win,” he says with a grin. “And we’d like to be asked to host this tournament again in the future.”
For more information about the BMW Championship or to purchase tickets to the event, visit bmwchampionshipusa.com. You can also read Forest & Bluff’s continuing coverage.
-Ann Marie Scheidler