Just Like Old Times

Castle Pines GC confirmed as site for 2024 BMW Championship; FedExCup playoff tournament will be first PGA Tour event held in Colorado since 2014; proceeds will benefit Evans Scholarship for caddies

By Gary Baines – 5/11/2022

Colorado’s PGA Tour drought will soon come to an end.

A PGA Tour event hasn’t been held in Colorado since 2014, but after a decade without one, the BMW Championship will be conducted at Castle Pines Golf Club in August of 2024. The announcement came on Wednesday at the club north of Castle Rock.

Since Cherry Hills Country Club hosted the 1938 U.S. Open, never has Colorado gone longer than 11 years without a PGA Tour event paying a visit. That 11-year drought came between the 1967 PGA Championship at Columbine Country Club and the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills.

The 2024 BMW — one of the Tour’s FedExCup Playoff tournaments — will be the 35th PGA Tour event held in Colorado. And out of those, Castle Pines has hosted by far the most, with all 21 Internationals taking place there during its run from 1986 through 2006. And suffice it to say that organizers hope the BMW returns to Castle Pines after 2024, with intervals perhaps as frequently as three years.

The hummingbirds at Castle Pines Golf Club are set to return to prominence.

“It’s exhilarating, to say the least,” Coloradan George Solich, the chairman and president of Castle Pines Golf Club, said after Wednesday’s announcement. “To bring it back to a great place like Castle Pines — 21 years on the PGA Tour and an iconic venue … We spent the last five years with Jack (Nicklaus’) leadership and help modernizing the golf course for today’s game. I think it’s going to really show well. We’re working very hard to make sure this golf course is best in class and that the players will love it. We’re going to take great care of the players and the fans.”

The only PGA Tour stop to come to Colorado since The International departed was the 2014 BMW Championship, where Solich — a noted local oilman and philanthropist — was the driving force in luring the event to the Centennial State. Solich served as general chairman of the 2014 BMW, when the event was named the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year and raised a then-record $3.5 million for the Evans Scholarship for caddies.

Billy Horschel claimed the title that year en route to capturing the season-long FedExCup points championship. Other top-10 finishers at Cherry Hills in 2014 included Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Jim Furyk.

With the hope of bringing a BMW Championship to Castle Pines, Nicklaus has significantly tweaked the course he originally designed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 10 visits over the course of the last five years, the 18-time major champion has made changes to nearly every hole. Now, it can be tipped out at about 8,100 yards — or the equivalent of roughly 7,200-7,300 yards at sea level. (Castle Pines sits at an average altitude of about 6,300 feet.)

The familiar clock tower at Castle Pines GC.

“You always want to have big-time events played on your golf course,” Nicklaus said via Zoom on Wednesday. “Castle Pines has always been right at the top of my list of golf courses that I’m very proud of. To see a significant tournament like the BMW come there … it’ll be a really, really good, interesting week. And I think the people in the Denver area are gong to really enjoy it.

“But the players will too, and I think that’s what it’s all about. When you’re playing tournament golf, you need to enjoy it. You need to be competitive, but you need to enjoy your competition.”

A stroke-play PGA Tour stop will be a new twist for Castle Pines as The International used a modified Stableford format throughout its 21-year run at the course.

“I always thought it was a really good golf course,” Nicklaus said. “I’ll be very anxious to see how it plays with medal play … because I hear we’ve got some places out there that you can get lost and can’t get back. That’s not quite right but it’s a little bit that way.

“But I think it’s a really good golf course. I think the adjustments we’ve made have benefited the course greatly. I think it’s a fun golf course to play, and it certainly doesn’t lack for beauty. That’s for sure.”

The Solich brothers — George (left) and Duffy, both CU Evans Scholar alums — will play key roles at the 2024 BMW Championship. (Photo by Joe Mahoney/Castle Pines Golf Club)

The BMW Championship has long been expected to come to Castle Pines, with Wednesday’s announcement ending any suspense. And, once again, Solich spearheaded the efforts to bring the event to Colorado, having worked on the cause for five years.

All net proceeds from the BMW Championship, which is conducted by the Western Golf Association, benefit the Evans Scholarship for caddies, with one of the E.S. houses located at the University of Colorado since the late 1960s. Since 2007, the tournament has raised more than $40 million for the Evans Scholarship. Over the years, eight Castle Pines caddies have earned Evans Scholarships at CU.

The Evans Scholarship provides full-tuition and housing grants to high-achieving caddies with limited financial means. The scholarships are valued at more than $120,000 over four years, on average.

Solich himself was an Evans Scholar at CU from 1979-83, and he’s played an active leadership role — personally and financially — on behalf of the scholarship for decades. He and older brother Geoff “Duffy” Solich have lent their name and support to the Colorado-based Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy since its inception in 2012.

The first hole at Castle Pines Golf Club.

Duffy Solich, in fact, will assume the tournament chairmanship role for the 2024 BMW Championship that George held in 2014 at Cherry Hills. George Solich felt he’d be stretched too thin doing work as chairman/president at Castle Pines, at his business, and as tournament chairman, so he asked his brother to assume the latter role.

“As I thought about it, who would have the passion and experience and relationships throughout the WGA, who’s a member at Castle Pines, who loves the (Evans Scholars) program and who will give it his all, and I thought of Duffy,” George said. “He was real excited about it. 

“It’s such a fabulous honor. For two former caddies from The Broadmoor, we both will have been able to be chairman of this great tournament. It’s kind of a capstone moment in life.”

Duffy Solich, a CU Evans Scholar from 1977-81, has been a member at Castle Pines since 2006. He’s a past Colorado state chairman and a current trustee for the WGA, having served as a WGA director for 20 years.

“I couldn’t imagine a greater honor and a great opportunity to help this club and help further the efforts of the Evans Scholarship and partner with the Western Golf Association, the BMW and the Tour,” Duffy said Wednesday afternoon. 

Duffy Solich will serve as tournament chairman for the 2024 BMW Championship. (Photo by Joe Mahoney/Castle Pines Golf Club)

With the considerable work that awaits, “Someone told me the other day, ‘I don’t know whether to congratulate you or give you my condolences,’” Duffy said. “I said, ‘The only thing that would be worse than doing this job would be having the opportunity to do it and not taking it. I think whatever lies ahead, I’m up for the challenge. We have a great committee that we’ve already started to put together. I know it will be a lot of work, but that’s OK.

“Being an alum of the program, being a current board member at Western Golf, being a member of this club, for me it kind of brings together my history and passion to focus on this tournament and make it a great successful event.”

The BMW Championship — the successor to the Western Open — has alternated between being held in the Chicago area and elsewhere around the country. This year’s tournament is scheduled for Wilmington, Del., with the 2023 event set for Olympia Fields, Ill. Then it’s on to Castle Pines in 2024, where both Soliches will play key roles in organizing and running the event.

“It’s super gratifying being an Evans Scholar to be able to put this on not only once in Colorado, but now twice,” George Solich said. “Cherry Hills was a great experience and a great event and a great venue, but we’re just as excited if not more to be here at Castle Pines considering the history of the Tour (here). It’s just a great day for Colorado, it’s a great day for the Evans Scholars program and a great day for Castle Pines.”

And Solich has high hopes 2024 won’t be the last time the BMW Championship is conducted at Castle Pines.

“The question was asked of me today, ‘Will this be a more consistent event (in the state)?,”’ he said. “Our goal is we would want to have it more than once. To the extent that the Tour and the WGA and BMW want to come back into this market, we’ll be ready. Now that we’ve gone through all the preparation to get here — the golf course and everything else — that option will be a lot more realistic.”

The BMW Championship is the second of three FedExCup Playoff events. A field of 70 competes, with the top 30 in the playoff standings after the tournament advancing to the Tour Championship. 

“I’m confident the players will be most excited to hear this news, and I can’t wait for 2024,” said former world No. 1 David Duval, a Colorado resident and Castle Pines member.

NBC will televise the 2024 tournament at Castle Pines, where CBS did the honors every year of The International. CBS’ Jim Nantz was a mainstay all those years and now is a member at Castle Pines.

“Castle Pines is one of the most stunning clubs and courses in the world,” Nantz said. “… It is wonderful to see it return (as a PGA Tour venue. International and Castle Pines founder), the late Jack Vickers, is smiling down on the leadership and vision of the club’s board of directors. This is a proud day for Colorado, the PGA Tour and Castle Pines.”

Officials estimate the 2024 BMW Championship will have a $30 million economic impact in the Denver area. 

Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway, a longtime Castle Pines member, and WGA chief executive officer John Kaczkowski were among those who attended Wednesday’s press conference at Castle Pines. Nicklaus and 12-time PGA Tour winner Zach Johnson participated virtually. Also on hand on Wednesday was current CU Evans Scholar Helina Seyoum, who caddied at the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy at CommonGround Golf Course.

Steve Sands, a graduate of Colorado State University and a longtime Golf Channel broadcaster, emceed the press conference.

It’s expected that more than 2,000 volunteers will be utilized at the 2024 BMW Championship. For more information about the event, CLICK HERE.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2021. Email: ColoradoGolfJournal@mac.com)