It hasn’t been a great year for the English estate Wentworth and the golf club of the same name that hosts the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship.
The golf club was taken over by a Chinese group, Reignwood, and the new ownership intended to purge the fairly large membership by jacking up re-initiation fees and welcoming a new membership consisting of only the super-rich.
Then, Keith Pelley, the European Tour chief executive, said in Dubai that the event, recognized officially by the Official World Golf Ranking as the European Tour’s “flagship” event, isn’t good enough to deserve that distinction. He cited the languishing purse, the mediocre-at-best field and other factors as to why the May event has work to do to earn back its distinction.
In June, Wentworth is bringing Ernie Els back in to work on the club’s West Course, which hosts the championship, so he can fix some of the problems he created in renovating the club in the first place.
And, now add this: The residents of Wentworth now want more money from the club as payment for hosting the championship.
As The Telegraph reports (via Geoff Shackelford), the Wentworth Estate Roads Committee, or WERC, which manages the housing community separate from the golf club is demanding the European Tour pay 2,207 percent more in fees to use the estate’s land to broadcast the tournament. Right now, the European Tour pays £13,000 for using land to stage satellite trucks and run wiring. The WERC, spurred on by efforts of Wentworth’s new owners to purge the golf club, now want £300,000, and they’ve hired security to block any efforts to set up broadcast wiring and equipment.
“The annual payment from the European Tour to the WERC is completely inadequate and reflects neither the inconvenience borne by the residents nor the commercial value derived by the European Tour from using WERC land and other infrastructure,” said the WERC in a statement.
The European Tour, which has hosted this event at Wentworth for 32 years, views this problem as one between the club and the WERC. The tour doesn’t feel the demands are justified.
“The European Tour has looked to engage in constructive dialogue with the WERC over a number of months in an attempt to resolve matters but to no avail, as the WERC’s demands were extortionate and unreasonable,” said the tour in a statement.
With no plans to cancel or change the event, the European Tour intends to stage the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth from May 26-29.