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Wilmington’s BMW Championship topped 126K

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Adam Scott punches a shot out of the bunker at No. 18 on Sunday, Aug. 21, at Wilmington Country Club. More than 126,000 people attended the four-day BMW Championship tournament near Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – The record-breaking crowd that attended the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club in August continued to grow, as the final tally by the tournament’s organizer was more than 126,000, officials announced Wednesday.

The initial estimate made after the first-in-Delaware-history tournament’s conclusion on Aug. 21 was an attendance of more than 110,00, but the final tallies grew in the weeks afterward to 126,802, according to the Western Golf Association.

One of the biggest draws all-day Sunday at the BMW Championship was fan favorite Rory McIlroy. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

It only raises the bar for Delaware’s largest event in recent memory, surpassing the four-day 90,000 attendance at the Firefly Music Festival in 2015, but falls just short of the 130,000 that attended the 2021 BMW Championship outside Baltimore. In addition to the in-person attendance, the Wilmington tournament also reached an international TV audience of 16 million people.

“An event of this magnitude is good for the many businesses that benefit, but it also helps boost Delaware’s image in the minds of so many people around the world,” said Jessica Welch, director of the Delaware Tourism Office, in a statement. “The people who came to Delaware not only got to see great golf, but they also saw that Wilmington is a great place to visit and explore and can be a world-class setting for major sports events like the BMW Championship.”

The tournament also brought a media spotlight and an economic impact to the city of Wilmington, with PGA players, VIPs, staff, and volunteers accounting for close to 1,500 room nights during the week, while thousands of fans also patronized hotels, restaurants and shops in and around the city.

The New Castle County tourism website VisitWilmingtonDE.com reportedly saw a 40% bump in year-over-year traffic in August. The bureau’s geofencing campaign, which delivered destination-focused digital ads to the mobile phones of those in town for the tournament, also received 130,000 impressions, with 111 Brandywine Treasure Trail passport redemptions during tournament week.

“The tournament’s impact on Delaware’s reputation is incalculable,” said Jennifer Boes, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a statement. “Fans left the state with a positive image of Wilmington and lots of good memories of their stay, and event organizers around the globe saw that our city can successfully host large-scale events.”

Tom Humphrey, BMW Tournament Committee chair, said his club is “very, very pleased” with the final results for the tournament, noting that they were hoping for at least a turnout of 120,000 and that organizers are limited mainly by the availability of parking.

While the tournament’s setup may be long gone from the greens and fairways of the Greenville golf course, those itching for a chance to play the tournament course still have a way to do so – at least virtually.

The Wilmington Country Club is playable in the recently released PGA Tour 2K23 video game, a first for a state golf course. | PHOTO COURTESY OF 2K SPORTS

The Wilmington Country Club’s South Course is featured in the PGA Tour 2K23 video game released earlier this month, and it will also feature in next year’s EA Sports PGA Tour video game. The appearance of the course in the games is the first time that a Delaware course has been featured in a video game, and likely only the second time a Delaware locale has featured after NASCAR’s Dover Motor Speedway.

“That was one of the surprises when we got involved in the BMW Championship is that both EA Sports and 2K Sports were going to be introducing new video games and they were looking for the ability to showcase Wilmington in conjunction with a BMW Championship,” he said.

Teams from each production studio came out to map the course – one used a helicopter while the other used drones – and they later came back to review the tee boxes, greens and more to ensure a realistic representation, Humphrey said.

Although he admitted that he wasn’t a video-gamer, Humphrey was anxious to see the results, which could have longer lasting impacts on the growth of the sport.

“I think everybody realizes that it’s a way to reach young people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to engage with golf. They can learn how to play the game before they actually even go to a golf course, which is I think what’s happened in a lot of these other sports. It’s an outreach effort on the part of golf and it’s one of the reasons why we decided to participate,” he added.

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