Caves Valley Golf Club will host the Constellation Senior Players Championship in July 2017. (Peter Schmuck/Baltimore Sun video)
In 1899, the Western Golf Association founded what is now the BMW Championship as the Western Open. In 2021, that tournament will be the first PGA Tour event in the Baltimore area since the 1962 Eastern Open Invitational.
The senior vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association, the event’s organizer, called Baltimore “a golf-starved market,” a trait that made it a perfect fit for next year’s BMW Championship.
“It’s a combination of us looking for an iconic venue, a premier venue in a market that is, quite frankly, a golf-starved market,” Vince Pellegrino said by phone Thursday. “It’s an incredible sports town that really supports the teams, but also supports events. I think having such success on the East Coast a couple of years ago at Aronimink Golf Club (near Philadelphia), we knew we wanted to return, and we were just looking for that right partnership of a competitive golf course with a venue that I know the membership and community will really rally behind.”
Western Golf Association, based in Glenview, Illinois, has run the BMW Championship since the tournament’s 19th century debut. BMW, the title sponsor since 2007, joins the Western Golf Association and PGA in selecting the host course for each year’s event. For 2021, the groups settled on Maryland’s Caves Valley, a course designed by noted architect Tom Fazio and opened in 1991 that’s among the most exclusive clubs in the state.
Steve Glossinger, golf course property manager of Caves Valley Country Club, talks about changes to the course leading up to the 2017 Constellation Senior Players Championship. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun video)
Thursday’s announcement was years in the making, Pellegrino said.
"We actually started talking with Caves Valley over four years ago about the possibility,” Pellegrino said. “We were looking at a lot of other clubs throughout the country and continued to build relationships with clubs for the future, and we just felt like 2021 was an ideal time to bring this championship to Baltimore.
“The hospitality that the club is known for is incredible. From the moment you arrive, the experience is first class.”
Since hosting the 1995 Mid-Amateur, Caves Valley has also been the site of the men’s and women’s NCAA championships, USGA events, the 2002 U.S. Senior Open, the 2007 Palmer Cup, the LPGA’s 2014 International Crown and the Constellation Senior Players Championship in 2017. But none of that compares to what it will see in 2021.
Through the BMW Championship, 70 of golf’s top players will come to Caves Valley, with the event whittling that group to 30 for the final stage of the FedExCup playoffs at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Past winners of the BMW Championship include Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and reigning champion Justin Thomas.
“It’s the best field in golf,” Pellegrino said. “We’re going to have some of the best names descending upon Caves Valley in 2021. ... It really casts a large spotlight in the Baltimore area, not only here in the United States, but globally."
The 2019 event, at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, drew more than 130,000 spectators from 44 states and three countries. Baltimore County is already preparing tour packages for the tournament 18 months in advance, with County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. projecting a crowd of “more than 150,000 visitors” in his announcement.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Caves has been a great partner for the city’s youth programs.
"The BMW Championship fans will love our Inner Harbor, Orioles baseball and all the cultural and culinary options the great city of Baltimore has to offer,” Young added in the announcement.
The BMW Championship is also a fundraiser for the Evans Scholars Foundation, with all proceeds going toward full tuition and housing scholarships for young caddies. Since 2007, when BMW became the event’s title sponsor and the tournament took on its current format, it has raised more than $35 million for those scholarships, with a peak of $4.4 million in 2019.
“The BMW Championship at Caves Valley will provide us with a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the Evans Scholars Program in a new market, as the organization continues its recent unprecedented growth from coast to coast,” Western Golf Association President and CEO John Kaczkowski said in the announcement.
Pellegrino, an Evans Scholarship recipient, added, “we always say that caddying is the best summer job a kid can have growing up. 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."
Since the scholarship’s introduction in 1930, more than 11,000 caddies have been named Evans Scholars. In 2019, the Western Golf Association reached the milestone of 1,000 students currently attending college on Evans Scholarships.
Tickets and volunteering opportunities are not yet available, but those interested in either can sign up for updates at bmwchampionship.com.
“The great news about the championship is if you buy a ticket, you volunteer or you purchase corporate hospitality, it all goes toward a great cause,” Pellegrino said.
That support will also benefit Baltimore, with last year’s BMW Championship in Chicago generating nearly $20 million in direct spending and more than $2 million in state and local taxes.
“Maryland looks forward to welcoming the top 70 PGA Tour players for what will be an incredible experience at Caves Valley Golf Club,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in the announcement. “This event will position Maryland as an outstanding golf destination and will draw tens of thousands of spectators who will contribute significantly to our state’s thriving economy.”
The location of the 2022 BMW Championship is not yet determined, with the host site in the Chicago area every other year since 2011 before Illinois’ Olympia Fields Country Club follows Medinah this year. But Pellegrino expects Baltimore to not have to wait another 60 years for its next PGA Tour visit.
“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."