BY HERB GOULD
For the Sun-Times
To say this is a big year for Chicago-area golf would be an understatement.
The BMW Championship returns to Conway Farms in Lake Forest. The U.S. Amateur will be played at Olympia Fields. And there will be a good-sized Illinois caravan to the PGA Championship in Whistling Straits.
This trio of headliners is joined by the third annual Encompass Championship, in which the Champions tour returns to North Shore Country Club in Glenview.
That’s a lot of golf for a city that tends toward feast-or-famine since the Western Open stopped being an annual mid-summer classic.
And yet, golfers seem to be rising to the spectating occasion.
“There’s room for plenty of golf in this city,’’ said Western Golf Association senior vice-president Vince Pellegrino, who manages the BMW Championship. “I think it raises the awareness for golf in general. I haven’t seen any corporate supporters say, ‘We’re not coming to Conway because of the U.S. Amateur or Whistling Straits.’ Our corporate sales have been stronger than in 2013, and our ticket sales are up over this point in 2013 as well.’’
The return of the PGA Championship to Whistling Straits for the third time in 12 years, on the heels of a Ryder Cup and two recent PGAs at Medinah, has whetted the appetite of golf followers, said PGA Championship director Jason Mengel.
“Twenty percent of our ticket sales are from Chicago, and a third of our corporate clients have a large presence in Chicago,’’ Mengel said. “With our track record of PGA championships, and the PGA championships and Ryder Cup at Medinah, we have some great momentum across the region.’’
Here’s a rundown of the key tournaments:
* Encompass Championship, North Shore Country Club, Glenview, July 10-12, encompasschampionship.com.
An excellent opportunity to mingle with fan-friendly Champions tour players on a convenient, accessible course. Craig Stadler and Tom Lehman were first two winners.
* John Deere Classic, July 9-12, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Ill., johndeereclassic.com
Especially attractive to golfers from western suburbs.
* PGA Championship, Whistling Straits, Wis., Aug. 13-16, pgachampionship.com
A big-time event on a beautiful world-renowned Irish-style links course. Last two PGAs here gone to playoffs won by Martin Kaymer (2010) and Vijay Singh (2004).
Weekly tickets are gone, but daily passes remain. And one adult can bring up to four juniors 17-and-under for no additional charge.
* U.S. Amateur, Olympia Fields, Aug. 17-23, 2015usamateur.com
Great opportunity to see up-and-coming young golfers at historic venue. Matt Kuchar won the last Chicago-area U.S. Amateur, at Cog Hill in 1997. Tickets start at $25 daily and $80 weekly.
* BMW Championship, Conway Farms, Lake Forest, Sept. 17-20, bmwchampionshipusa.com
Continuing its pattern of alternating between Chicago and other cities, the BMW makes its second trip to Conway Farms with many spectator enhancements. It’s the last Fedex Cup playoff event before the season-ending Tour Championship.
STATS OF THE WEEK
100: Tournament starts between victories for Jim Furyk. Before his win at Hilton Head last week. His last win had come at the 2010 Tour Championship, a span of 4-1/2 years.
7: First-time PGA tournament winners among the last 10 champions at the Zurich Classic. Seung-Yul Noh won last year at TPC Louisiana, a 7,400-yard Pete Dye course.
Three to watch at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
1. Dustin Johnson: Five top-10s in last six tournaments, including win at Doral. TPC Louisiana will favor long hitters.
2. Jason Day: No. 6 in world rankings, tops in this field. Also a long hitter, already has won at Torrey Pines.
3. Justin Rose: Has finished in top 15 in last three Zurich tourneys; was second at Masters.
OUTING OF THE WEEK
Ernie Els for Autism Golf Challenge, Rich Harvest Farms, June 22, $700 per player. Two-person teams compete at regionals for berths in Nov. 13-15 finals in Las Vegas, hosted by Ernie Els. More information/signup at elsforaustism.com.