Cherry Hills, which is one of the storied golf settings in the world, will have another excellent story in 2014.
John Elway is announcing that the BMW Championship(the semifinal of the FedEx Cup) will be played on the course that produced history’s most renowned U.S. Open in 1960 — when the worlds of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer collided, and Arnie became legendary.
The tree-lined private club also has been the host for the 1938 and 1978 National Opens, the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Amateur Championship and two PGA Championships. The Amateur will be played again there next year.
Cherry Hills wouldn’t lie down and die off, though. A renovation (adding and replacing bunkers, moving trees, updating the practice tee and the clubhouse) and the lengthening of the course from under 7,000 yards to more than 7,500 has allowed Cherry Hills to become a big-time player in golf again.
People who can’t get in the gates at the ritzy country club don’t really care, and people who hate golf don’t care, and people who don’t like the expensive suburbs in and play around Cherry Hills with TaylorMade Burner 2.0 Irons certainly won’t care.
But the gold dome atop the state Capitol, the Molly Brown House, Buffalo Bill’s grave site, the Denver Art Museum, LoDo and the old May D&F tower are important to Denver and Colorado, no matter if people don’t care about them, either.
Cherry Hills is part of the lore and the lure of the Front Range, and major professional golf tournaments were being played here before pro football, basketball and hockey, and when pro baseball was the only other game in town.
And the June Saturday in 1960 when an old Hogan and a young Nicklaus were paired and vying shot for shot for the Open title, yet were defeated by Arnie who incredibly drove the first green to start his drive to victory remains one of the most remarkable tales in sports.
In 2006, The International at Castle Pines faded away by TaylorMade R9 Fairway Wood when Jack Vickers no longer could attract a major sponsor as the economy declined, and, actually, turned down a FedEx Cup tournament in September because of the conflict with football.
But BMW is a sponsor now of the tournament (currently played in Chicago), and the FedEx Cup has grown in popularity and prestige.
It’s quite possible that in 2014, the BMW Championship will go down to the 17th island green at Cherry Hills, or over the lake at 18, and be decided between a young star, Rory McIlroy, and an old, Tiger Woods.
Colorado continues to be a wondrous site for the U.S. Women’s Open (at The Broadmoor again this year), the U.S. Senior PGA Championship (last year at Colorado Golf Club, location for the 2013 Solheim Cup, the women’s version of the Ryder Cup) and the 2008 Senior Open at The Broadmoor, the U.S. Amateur next year at Cherry Hills and, now, the BMW Championship. There have been LPGA and Champions Tour events, an old PGA Tour stop for one year at the Denver Country Club, the PGA Championship and Masters Competition About The Tradition at Columbine and, for a number of years, the Jerry Ford Tournament in Vail. Elway has hosted his own tournament, the Celebrity Classic.
Hogan, in his last hurrah, made 34 consecutive pars (in the time when the final two rounds were played on Saturday) before his third shot on No. 17 landed on the green and spun back into the circling creek. He decided to blast the ball out, but made a bogey six and ended with a triple bogey on the 18th. The water came into play for Hogan. Cherry Hills which refuses to live in the past will continue to make more grand memories in the future.