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Lake Forest hopes to shine in BMW Championship spotlight

Rory McIlroy shown here last year's BMW Championship will be among pro golfers expected draw 125000 spectators greater Lake Forest

Rory McIlroy, shown here at last year's BMW Championship, will be among the pro golfers expected to draw 125,000 spectators to greater Lake Forest when the event comes to Conway Farms this year. | Photo by Warren Little, Getty Images

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Updated: October 8, 2013 2:39AM

With the international spotlight set to shine on the BMW Championship golf tournament, Lake Forest officials hope some of that light will hit Lake Forest at large — and result in dollars spent, return visits and maybe even some new residents.

Conway Farms Golf Club expects 125,000 spectators and the PGA’s top 70 golfers and their families in town the week of Sept. 9 for the first time. And that doesn’t even count those who will tune to NBC and The Golf Channel to view the sport’s top players, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, local favorite Luke Donald, 2012 BMW Championship winner Rory McIlroy and 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia.

But since this is the first time the city will host an international event of this magnitude, no one can say with certainty what to expect.

“We don’t know if spectators will leave the tournament during the day, during game play, or not,” Lake Forest Communications Manager Susan Banks said.

But if they do, the city is ready.

Banks and Economic Development Coordinator Susan Kelsey are working with local restaurants and businesses to prepare for a possible onslaught of customers, and making sure they include key words for the tournament on their websites.

“We want to be sure they can be found on Google and Yelp,” Kelsey said.

Capturing spectators before they even get to Conway Farms and its host of vendors is another strategy.

For those who take the train to Lake Forest, television monitors will be set up at both Lake Forest train stations with looping videos on the city and its amenities for spectators to view while waiting for a shuttle to take them to the tournament or while waiting for a train. Promotional materials and city maps also will be available.

In addition, “The Lore and Lure of Golf,” the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society’s exhibit, will be set up at the West Lake Forest train station for spectator viewing. The award-winning exhibit details Lake Forest’s long history with golf.

The city is rolling out the red carpet for the players’ families and other prominent guests with welcome kits that include marketing brochures promoting Lake Forest as a community focused on family, education, tradition and philanthropy.

Kits also include separate pieces on the city’s amenities, including Dickinson Hall, Committee Representing Our Young Adults, Lake Forest Library and Parks and Recreation.

Special events also are planned, including a Lake Forest fashion show on Market Square on Thursday, Sept. 12.

“We’ll have a big tent set up in Market Square so it will go on rain or shine,” Kelsey said. The Spirit of 67 Foundation will supply the models, who will don fall fashions.

While the television broadcasters are expected to focus on Chicago, the city is doing all it can to share ideas for spotlight stories on Lake Forest in between play.

Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joanna Rolek believes the BMW Championship will have lasting impact on the city.

“One of the great benefits of this will be some positive publicity for Lake Forest for return trips,” she said. “We hope they recognize this is a great place to visit, to shop and to eat.”

Some may even decide to move to Lake Forest.

“Close to 25 percent of new home purchases in Lake Forest are transfers,” Kelsey pointed out. “This is a very good opportunity to showcase Lake Forest to those possible new residents, too.”

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