- Western Open
The Western Open dates back to 1899, the same year that the Western Golf Association was founded, so this competition was in play eighteen years before the formation of the PGA of America. It ran for more than a hundred editions, until it morphed into the BMW Championship on the PGA Tour in 2007.
The inaugural Western Open in September of 1899 was hosted by Glen View Golf Club in Illinois, with Willie Smith from Dundee defeating another Scotsman, Laurie Auchterlonie, in a playoff after both players had posted identical 2-round stroke play scores of 156.
Smith picked up fifty dollars from the hundred and fifty dollar prize fund then a week later he collected $150 from the prize pot for winning the 1899 US Open (by eleven shots) at Baltimore Country Club in Maryland. He moved to Mexico in 1904, designing the course at Club de Golf Chapultepec which his brother Alex completed in 1921.
Auchterlonie got over his disappointment at losing out in the first Western Open the following year when he won by two strokes at Midlothian Country Club in Illinois and this pattern of winners from the British Isles continued right through to 1925, with 13 Scottish and 3 English victories from the 24 contests that were held.
Chick Evans from Indiana was the most notable of the home-based winners, claiming the title as an amateur in 1910 (six years before he captured the US Amateur and the US Open in 1916) and he won the tournament when it was played in a match play format, beating George Simpson 6&5 in the final. The following season’s competition was also a match play affair before reverting to the 72-hole stroke play format that had been introduced in 1902.
Walter Hagen won the first of his five titles at Blue Mound Country Club, Wisconsin in 1916 and the last was secured at Canterbury Golf Club in Ohio, when he held off his nearest challenger by just one stroke. Half the championships played before World War II took place in Illinois or Ohio but the organizers’ horizons were expanded somewhat when they staged the 1940 event in Texas then Arizona the following two years.
After a three year suspension due to the war, the Western Open broke new ground in a number of different states: Salt Lake City Country Club in Utah (1947); Brookfield Country Club, New York (1948); and Brentwood Country Club, California (1950). This outreach continued during the 1950s when the championship was played in Oregon (at Portland Golf Club in 1955) and Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Field Club in 1959).
In 1962, Medinah Country Club hosted the competition and it would remain in Illinois for the remainder of its days, held latterly at Butler National Golf Club (from 1974 to 1990) then Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, from 1991 until the last one was organized in 2006.
Non-American winners of the Western Open have been few and far between since Canadian Stan Leonard’s playoff success against Art Wall Jr. in 1960 at Western Golf & Country Club in Michigan. Bruce Crampton from Australia triumphed at Olympia Fields in 1971 then there was a big gap until Zimbabwe’s Nick Price won at Cog Hill in 1992 and 1993.
In the new millennium, Robert Allenby from Australia ousted Nick Price in a playoff at Cog Hill in 2000 then Stephen Ames from Trinidad & Tobago claimed his first PGA Tour at the same venue three years later. In the final edition of the tournament in 2006, Trevor Immelman from South Africa held off a strong challenge from Tiger Woods to beat him (and Australian Mathew Goggin) by two strokes.
Walter Hagen won five Western Opens between 1916 and 1932), with Willie Anderson (1902-1909) and Billy Casper (1965-1973) each winning four championships. Other multiple-event winners include Jim Barnes (3), Ralph Guldahl (3), Tom Watson (3) and Tiger Woods (3).
Butler National hosted most of the competitions played (17), followed by Cog Hill (16), then Olympia Fields (5), Beverly (4), Medinah (3) and Midlothian (3). A number of courses which have staged the Western Open are missing below, either because they no longer exist or they do not currently feature in any of our Best in State listings.
Despite the Western Open switching to the BMW Championship in 2007, the winners of the BMW are still presented with the sterling silver J.K. Wadley Trophy as well as the modern BMW trophy. J.K. Wadley donated the cup when serving as a director of the Western Golf Association in the early 1920s.
Western Open Top 100 Leaderboard
B-NL Challenge Trophy