Stopping the PGA Tour to bring some of the best golfers in the world to Delaware

The BMW event is the semi-final round of the PGA’s Fed-Ex Cup playoffs, with golfers competing for $15 million in prize money. More importantly, they’ll be vying for one of 30 spots in the Finals later this month in Atlanta. The cup winner gets $18 million.

The winner of the tournament takes home about $2 million, and this trophy, which weighs more than about 25 pounds. (Cris Barrish/WHY)

The BMW Tournament is also by far the largest sporting event ever held in northern Delaware, with 130,000 spectators expected for the four days of competition ending Aug. 21. Downstate, Dover International Speedway has attracted around 130,000 stock car fans for just one NASCAR race, although Dover attendance has fallen well below that in recent years.

Wilmington has minor league baseball Blue Rocks and basketball Blue Coats, and for two decades ending in 2004, DuPont Country Club hosted the McDonald’s LPGA Championship and then the LPGA Championship. Earlier this year, Wilmington was also the site of the NCAA Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Tournament.

But Humphrey, the local tournament chairman, isn’t exaggerating when he says the BMW event propels the Wilmington area into the sports major leagues. For example, a slew of corporate hospitality packages costing up to $290,000 each have long been sold out for an event that a consultant says generated more than $50 million in greater Baltimore’s economy. Last year.

“It will be on TV for over 50 hours, both on NBC and the Golf Channel. So Delaware is going to get a lot of airtime, the city of Wilmington, New Castle County and Wilmington Country Club,” said Humphrey, himself a former Delaware senior amateur golf champion, as he gave WHYY News an overview of the progress. in preparing the course and the club for a world-class sporting event.

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“So it’s a big deal and we’re very excited about it. And from a golf perspective, it’s as good as it gets for a guy like me.

Jennifer Boes, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, says hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, retail stores and tourist sites such as the Winterthur Museum and Longwood Gardens should see big benefits. .

Jennifer Boes of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau expects an economic boost of tens of millions of dollars. (Cris Barrish/WHY)

She noted that many players will be staying at the DuPont Hotel in downtown Wilmington and urges golf fans to also attend two events in the city during the golf tournament: a block party in the 800 block of Market Street and a “Night Market” for vendors and buyers at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington’s Riverfront area.

And if visitors are too focused on the tournament for sightseeing or shopping, “we hope to encourage them to return as visitors to our area, not just as golf fans,” Boes said.

“I’m very optimistic and I think everyone in northern Delaware is very excited about the potential this could bring to us.”

“Very good players and big names”

Golf luminaries who will compete at the club on the outskirts of town include the winners of this year’s four majors – Cameron Smith (British Open), Scottie Scheffler (Masters), Justin Thomas (PGA Championship) and Matt Fitzpatrick (US Open ). Fan favorites such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose are also arriving.

Several big names in golf will be absent, however, including Tiger Woods, golf’s biggest attraction.

Woods returned to competition after leg injuries from a horrific SUV crash in 2021, but did not qualify for the playoffs. Also missing will be notables such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia, who were banned for joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. Mickelson joined Bryson DeChambeau and nine other LIV players in taking legal action against the PGA, claiming the tour used monopoly power to try to crush competition and unfairly suspended players.

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“I’m sure if someone was a big fan of some of the people who went to LIV, they might be disappointed,” Humphrey acknowledged. “But we know that at the end of the day we will have very, very good players here and big names.”

Tom Humphrey, the local tournament chairman, stands in the stand under construction on the high 18th hole. (Cris Barrish/WHY)

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