Cherry Hills to host 2014 BMW Championship

Cherry Hills during the 2005 U.S. Women's Open.

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Cherry Hills Country Club has notified its members that the famed Colorado course will host the 2014 BMW Championship.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of an email sent to members outlining that Cherry Hills entered a contract to host the BMW Championship from Sept. 1-7, 2014.

The BMW Championship, which has long been played in Chicago, is the third in a series of four FedEx Cup playoff events.

Cherry Hills officials did not return messages left by the AP.

The Chicago Tribune first reported the championship was leaving Chicago for Cherry Hills, which is in the Denver metropolitan area. Colorado has been without a big-time PGA event since The International ended its run in 2006. That year, organizers of the tournament in Castle Pines – about 30 miles south of Denver – declined the Tour’s offer to move the event to the end of the season and be part of the FedEx Cup’s playoffs.

Now Cherry Hills will be part of the playoffs, at least in 2014.

The email indicated the BMW Championship will be played at Cog Hill in Chicago this fall, then at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis in 2012. The host site in 2013 remains undecided.

The 2014 dates are set for now as part of a deal reached in March, but they could be moved to mid-August. The email indicates the PGA Tour will negotiate TV contracts for the 2013 season and beyond this year. As part of the negotiations, the tour may propose to move the start of the playoffs up to avoid conflicts with the start of the NFL season.

The PGA Tour chose Cherry Hills, according to the email, because it has one of the finest caddie programs in the West. All proceeds from the BMW Championship will go to fund the Evans Scholar Caddie Scholarship program.

Ed Mate, executive director of the Colorado Golf Association, said he didn’t know details but wasn’t surprised Cherry Hills was being considered.

He discounted critics who question the course’s length.

“You can’t build a golf course in Colorado long enough if enough means guys are going to be hitting lengthy shot into greens,” Mate said. “So you have to do things with the setup to preserve shot value and you can do those things at Cherry Hills. People tend to look at a scorecard, but it’s judging a book by its cover. You could build a 9,000-yard golf course, but it wouldn’t be long enough if it wasn’t strategically designed. Cherry Hills will be fine.”

Mate says the course, site of the 2012 U.S. Amateur, will be a great venue because of the great green complexes.

“One of my favorite quotes about Tiger-proofing golf courses came from Ben Crenshaw about Augusta. He said, ‘You still have to deal with these greens.’ That’s the case with Cherry Hills,” Mate said. “It’s an incredibly classic design.”

Golf course architect Tom Doak redesigned Cherry Hills in the fall of 2008.

“It doesn’t surprise me a bit,” Doak said of the news. “The only thing that would surprise me is if they’re talking about a regular (men’s) tour event.”

But Doak said the course still has the same appeal that it did when Arnold Palmer made history with his dramatic come-from-behind win at the 1960 U.S. Open.

“It’s a golf course that has held up for tournaments over the years,” Doak said.

His redesign made a handful of key changes, among them cross-bunkering on the par-5 No. 17 that plays to an island green. The course as originally built had cross bunkering but it simply was to keep players honest and make them get their second shots airborne.

“Even into the 1960s, nobody dared go for the island green in two shots,” Doak said.

Now, with better equipment and players hitting it so much farther off the tee, it’s definitely reachable in two.

“Cross-bunkering makes you take a gamble off the tee,” Doak said.

The greens on Nos. 3 and 13, the two shortest par 4s on the course, are now smaller and require even more precision. Both tee and green on the par-3 eighth were moved so they could add 50 yards off the tee on No. 9.

“I don’t know if ‘beef’ it up is right word,” Doak said of the redesign. “We were restoring things that have been lost over the years. We’ve tried to enhance it. Members don’t want to change it to where they don’t recognize it.”

That said, many pros still will be tempted – just like Palmer in his famous Open victory – to try driving the green on No. 1.

• • •

– AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.

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