The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments on the international calendar and attracts world-class golfers and tens of thousands of spectators every year. As the tournament celebrates its 15th anniversary with BMW as title partner, Championship Director Jamie Birkmyre looks back on the development that the European Tour’s flagship event has undergone since BMW came on board in 2005.
“I was handed the crown jewels,” says Jamie Birkmyre, referring to the moment in 2005 when he was named Championship Director of the PGA Championship, which was held under the BMW banner for the first time. Today, 15 years later, one thing is certain: Together, BMW and the European Tour have given the crown jewels a new splendour.
“The standards set by BMW are the highest you can possibly achieve,” says Birkmyre, looking back to the start of the partnership. “BMW brought in a style that was so consistent with the way the automobile manufacturer produces its fantastic cars. Every detail is first class, there is no compromise.” This approach was applied immediately to the BMW PGA Championship, which has been improved consistently every year since. “BMW raised the level and, at the same time, every party involved raised their own level,” says Birkmyre.
The flagship event of the European Tour has established a status that makes it the role model for other tournaments. “The BMW PGA Championship is the benchmark: A stunning venue, world-class players, heritage, and partners with prestigious, world-league brands. The golf is the nucleus, and we build around that pillar to give our fans the best experience possible.”
The spectator experience is the focus of the organisers. With great attention to detail, they have continuously raised the bar every year – from the Championship Village and the celebrity Pro-Am, to the spectacular weekend concerts that complement the golfing experience for the fans.
Birkmyre describes this development: “This is not just about a golf tournament, let’s make this a festival. With the BMW PGA Championship, we are in the entertainment business. It started with the Pro-Am. Let’s not have a Pro-Am like any other, let’s have celebrities. Then we added the concerts on the weekends. This year, with Rudimental and Anne-Marie on the stage, we will attract a lot of people who have never been to a golf event before. They are coming for the music in the first place, and may return for the golf.”
Day one of the 2019 BMW PGA Championship proved that this approach is still extremely successful: On Wednesday, 22,000 people came to the celebrity Pro-Am at the Wentworth Club. “This is probably a world record for a Pro-Am,” says Birkmyre. And that is just the start of the tournament week.