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Five things to know about the 2021 BMW Championship coming to Baltimore

Caves Valley Golf Club will host the Baltimore area’s first PGA Tour event in nearly 60 years when the BMW Championship comes to Owings Mills in 2021.

Here are five things to know about what is perhaps the biggest golf event in Baltimore’s history.

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1. This is big for Baltimore.

In 1956, Arnold Palmer earned his first PGA Tour victory, winning the Eastern Open at Mount Pleasant Municipal Golf Club in Baltimore. Six years later, the last Eastern Open Invitational was played, and the PGA Tour hadn’t come back to the area since.

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That’s only part of the significance of the 2021 BMW Championship coming to Caves Valley on Aug. 17-22, 2021. Last year’s tournament at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago drew more than 130,000 spectators from 44 states and three countries. It generated nearly $20 million in direct spending, $3 million in lodging, $4 million in food and beverage sales, $1.7 million in state taxes, and $400,000 in local taxes. The event was also broadcast nationally with rounds on the Golf Channel and NBC.

“I can’t undersell just how great this is for Baltimore,” said Steve Fader, chairman of Caves Valley Golf Club. “Having four days of network television coverage of this event is really going to showcase Baltimore in a very favorable light."

Eighteen months in advance of the tournament, Baltimore County is preparing tour packages for the thousands of fans who will visit the area. Fader and county representatives are projecting a crowd of at least 150,000.

“There is a place to be shown off here,” said Will Anderson, the county’s director of economic and workforce development. “Baltimore County and greater Baltimore being seen on this stage for what it really is, as a super high-quality area, PGA understands that, and they’re not coming in lightly and taking a chance on a place that they don’t think will be highly successful for their sponsors, their TV partners.

"It says this is a place to have a marquee event.”

2. Some of the world’s best golfers are coming.

The BMW Championship is the second of three FedExCup playoff events. At the end of golf’s regular season, the top 125 players in the FedExCup points standings will enter The Northern Trust, which in 2021 will be played at Bethpage Black Course on Long Island, New York. The low 70 from that event will advance to the BMW Championship, which will narrow that group to the low 30.

Those 30 will compete in the Tour Championship in Atlanta, receiving a stroke bonus depending on their results in the first two playoff events. The low score at the end is the FedExCup champion, receiving $15 million and earning a five-year PGA Tour exemption.

That is all to say, the game’s best are coming to Baltimore in 2021.

“It's the best field in golf,” said Vince Pellegrino, the Western Golf Association’s senior vice president of tournaments. “We're going to have some of the best names descending upon Caves Valley in 2021.”

Tiger Woods won two of the first three BMW Championships after the event took on its current format in 2007. Rory McIlroy, the current No. 1 golfer and reigning FedExCup champion, is also among the former winners.

“This event is a premier event on the PGA Tour schedule,” Fader said. “Every PGA Tour player, in addition to wanting to win a major, would like to win the FedEx [Cup] championship, so having a chance to host the event that will decide which 30 will go and play for that championship is terrific.”

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3. This has been years in the making ...

The Western Golf Association, which founded and runs the BMW Championship, has been in communication with Caves Valley about being a possible host site for “over four years,” Pellegrino said.

That led to a process that Fader described as “arduous at times.” The Western Golf Association, PGA and BMW all needed to approve the venue, one that is among the most exclusive clubs in the Baltimore area.

“The hospitality that the club is known for is incredible,” Pellegrino said. “From the moment you arrive, the experience is first class.”

The course itself will offer those 70 players “a terrific test of golf,” Fader said, while the club’s facilities are capable of handling the daily crowds of 40,000 or so.

Caves Valley, opened in 1991 and designed by noted golf architect Tom Fazio, also should present a great experience for those in attendance.

“Caves Valley, because of the layout of the course, presents wonderful viewing sightlines for fans," Fader said.

4. … but it’s a one-year deal.

Since changing from the Western Open to the BMW Championship and becoming part of the FedExCup playoffs in 2007, only one course outside the Western Golf Association’s base state of Illinois has hosted the BMW Championship multiple times: Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana.

The 2022 host is not yet determined, but until this year, when the BMW Championship will be played at Olympia Fields a year after being at Medinah, the tournament hasn’t been in the same state in consecutive years since 2011; Cog Hill in Lemont, Illinois, hosted the Western Open and BMW Championship every year from 1991 to 2011 with the exception of 2008.

Although that all adds up to the unlikelihood of another BMW Championship at Caves Valley in 2022, it seems more unlikely that Baltimore will have to wait another 60 years for the PGA Tour to swing by again.

“We have no doubt that the corporate community and the golf fans of Baltimore will support this championship,” Pellegrino said. “We hope this a long-term relationship and that we can come back in the future."

The 2017 BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia gave the Western Golf Club confidence in the East Coast, eventually bringing the tournament back for its stay at Caves Valley. Fader’s plan is to give all involved parties plenty of reasons to come back soon.

“It’s my belief that once the tour, BMW, the Western Golf Association and, importantly, the fans — and we have some very educated golf fans in the greater Baltimore metro area — that they will be looking to come back back to Baltimore much sooner than later,” Fader said. “I assure you it won’t be another 60 years."

5. It’s all for a good cause.

All proceeds from the BMW Championship go to the Evans Scholars Foundation, which provides full-tuition and housing scholarships to young caddies in need. Since 1930, more than 11,000 caddies have received an Evans Scholarship, with 2019 marking the first year that 1,000 students were currently in college while on the scholarship.

Pellegrino himself was an Evans Scholarship recipient.

“We always say that caddying is the best summer job a kid can have growing up,” he said. “It’s truly a life-changing scholarship opportunity. Just to create that awareness that not only is caddying a great summer job, but it also gives you the opportunity to potentially earn an Evans Scholarship, full tuition and housing scholarship. For us to expand our program and to create the awareness in an additional market is really exciting for us."

It’s also exciting for Fader, who noted that Caves Valley has a foundation of its own to provide scholarships to caddies.

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“This really aligns very nicely with what our community and philanthropic endeavors are at the club," Fader said.

Pellegrino mentioned the importance the BMW Championship’s 2,000 or so yearly volunteers have in adding toward that scholarship fund.

“They're really the lifeblood of the championship,” he said.

Those interested in volunteering or priority ticket plans for the 2021 BMW Championship can sign up for updates at bmwchampionship.com.

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