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Bellerieve considered among tracks for new PGA tourney set-up

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  • Bellerieve considered among tracks for new PGA tourney set-up

    Bellerive is part of PGA tourney idea
    By Dan O'Neill

    Representatives of the PGA Tour and Western Golf Association have made a presentation to the executive board of Bellerive Country Club proposing the club play host to a newly formulated "Championship Series" event.

    If the club is agreeable, the full-field, 72-hole championship first would be held in St. Louis in 2010 and return every sixth year.

    "At this point in time, we have merely advised the Tour that we are willing to further discuss hosting this championship," Bellerive president Byron Francis said. "We have told the representatives of the Tour that we obviously need to better understand the financial terms of hosting the event, and we would need the membership's approval before making any commitment."

    In a "state of the Tour" address at the Tour Championship on Tuesday, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem mentioned Bellerive as a creditable recipient of a PGA Tour event, noting the club was poised to conduct the 2001 American Express Championship before the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, canceled the tournament in mid-week.

    "We've had some conversations with different clubs in the Midwest, and a number of clubs have been mentioned: Bellerive for example, and others," Finchem said. "We were scheduled to play at Bellerive, and we had to cancel the tournament because it was the week of 9/11, and we've wanted to go back there ever since. This might be an opportunity to do it."

    The "opportunity" is a blueprint for a new-and-improved PGA Tour model, to be implemented in 2007. Integral to the new schedule will be a season-long points race known as the FedEx Cup. As a key part of the points package, the last major championship of the season - the PGA Championship - would be followed in late August and September with the start of the Championship Series.

    The continuous four-part Series would begin with three tournaments and conclude with the Tour Championship. The tournaments targeted as the three preliminary championships include the Barclays Classic in New York, the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston and the Western Open in Chicago.

    However, the Western, which dates to 1899 and has been held in Chicago since 1962, would undergo dramatic changes. The event, which is dealing with sponsorship issues in Chicago, would move from its traditional July 4 date to the aforementioned September slot. At the same time, it would rotate out of Chicago every other year to one of three other Midwest sites.

    Bellerive is among the Midwest sites being courted, with Crooked Stick in Indianapolis and Hazeltine in Minneapolis representing the other two venues. In addition to the change in locale, the naming rights of the newly formatted Western would go to the corporate sponsor. Given the event would be part of the prestigious Championship Series, it would be assured of drawing the top players in the game, including Tiger Woods, who has played in the Western Open on a regular basis.

    "We have two objectives here," said Finchem, who must sell the new vision for the Tour to television execs and major sponsors. "One is to pull the season together and make the whole season impactful, and the other is to have a strong finish. The championship series strengthens the end of our season and builds our audience."

    Bellerive most recently played host to the 2004 U.S. Senior Open. Prior to the aborted American Express Championship, the club also was the stage for the 1992 PGA Championship and the 1965 U.S. Open. The club currently is undergoing an $8 million to $10 million renovation, which will require the golf course to be closed for at least a year.

    Architect Rees Jones, son of Belerive's original designer, Robert Trent Jones Sr., is overseeing the renovation. The club, which was built in 1959, is in West County. Bellerive has made clear its desire to play host to a major professional golf event, with the U.S. Open representing the ultimate prize. The allure of staging a star-stocked Championship Series tournament every six years may represent an attractive alternative.

    Moreover, the early-September date would fit nicely into St. Louis' weather pattern.

    "It's a great event," said Jay Williamson, a PGA Tour player and board member at Bellerive. "The Western has a great history and supports a great cause in the Evans Scholarship program. I think members will like it. The September date is good. It's not in the middle of the summer, when people are still playing the course a lot. And I think weather will be perfect.

    "And I think when this renovation is done, people are going to be so excited to show it off ... and having an event like this will be a great opportunity to do that."

    Francis said that, for the time being, discussions with the PGA Tour will continue before a final proposal is brought to the membership.

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    What about Old Warson C.C. ?