For months, Sam MacKenzie and his staff worked diligently to get Olympia Fields Country Club's North Course ready for the 2020 BMW Championship. But for much of that time, there was no guarantee the tournament would actually be played. Now that it's a week away, the club's director of grounds is breathing a sigh of relief.
"I've been sweating and worrying and fretting over anything and everything all summer long, and right now, that relief is that we’re here and we’re knocking on the door of the championship happening," MacKenzie said.
There's a feeling of relief for Vince Pellegrino as well, but the senior vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association admits he's feeling disappointment, too. With no fans, no pro-am and minimal volunteers, Pellegrino says he's experiencing a "roller coaster of emotions."
"It’s certainly disappointment, but we’re still excited about the fact that we’re having the best 70 players in the world come to one of the most iconic golf courses in the country, and to have them out here at Olympia Fields next week is going to be special," Pellegrino said.
The ongoing pandemic will cause many traditional elements to be missing from this year's BMW Championship, but Pellegrino is thankful one of the most important ones remains. The Evans Scholars Foundation will once again benefit from the event, helping students in Illinois and across the country attend college.
"There’s a silver lining here," said Pellegrino. "We run these championships for scholarships, and without them, the scholarships would suffer. So being able to host the championship and run it and continue to raise dollars for the Evans Scholars foundation, is at the top of my list [of priorities]."
Olympia Fields' famed North Course has hosted a plethora of big events, including two U.S. Open's, a pair of PGA Championships, the 2015 U.S. Amateur, and most recently, the 2017 Women's PGA Championship. Now, it's ready to welcome the top 70 PGA TOUR players in the FedExCup Standings. MacKenzie says the course is in great shape, and above all else, its greens will challenge the golfers.
"The putting greens will defend this golf course," MacKenzie said. "These players can just hit it out of sight and so forth like that. So the emphasis on the greens, which has always been a strong point of any golf course, will have to take on an even greater proportion than before," he added.
Last year, Justin Thomas won the event at Medinah Country Club. Who will win this year? The answer starts to come into focus next Thursday.
"If we can ask for anything, it would be a great week of weather, a great week of competition, and being able to see some of the best players in the world, and one of those gentlemen hoist the trophy on Sunday," said Pellegrino.