POTOMAC -- When they christened the Tournament Players Course at Avenel a few years ago with the Chrysler Cup for seniors, organizers swooned about the layout.
The players, mellowed with age and gentlemanly to begin with, tempered their praise and complaints. Avenel got a fine sendoff with an interesting tournament during which Arnold Palmer carded holes-in-one on the same hole on successive days.
It is now a half-dozen years later and when the PGA comes to town for the Kemper Open (May 29-June 2), the players will begin seeing that course they gushed about.
Previously, the course, carved out of long since utilized farmland, lacked definition, another term for trees. Veteran tourist Hale Irwin described the layout as a "moonscape."
Avenel's general manager and golf director Jim Seeley says the club has gone a long way toward correcting the situation by hauling in and planting $100,000 worth of trees in the last year alone.
It was all part of a program that saw Avenel invite criticism from the tournament players and club members alike. Talk about asking for trouble.
"Both groups came up with pretty much the same thing: The bunkers were too deep and too severe and the course lacked definition," Seeley said.
A lot of the holes have a decidedly different look now, a fact attested to yesterday by Dr. Gil Morgan, on hand and looking at the layout for the first time since winning the Kemper last year.
"I didn't think it was my place to suggest changes after having won here," said Morgan, "but it did seem as though a few of the holes looked a little bare out there. But then every new golf course looks a little bare for a few years unless you cut it out of a forest."
Besides the improved aesthetic effect, the man-made maturing of the course figures to provide welcome relief for the spectators, who will be clamoring for shady relief with summer in full blast in a couple more weeks.
Morgan is looking forward to his return to the area, not only "because the Kemper has been a fantastic event for me, but because I took some time off [three weeks] and I'm anxious to get back after not playing too well."
He started the year well, making the leader boards in Hawaii and Phoenix, but then lost continuity the way he had himself scheduled to play. He now realizes he has to pace himself better if he is going to maintain any kind of consistency over a planned 25-tournament schedule.
After skipping last week's Atlanta stop, Morgan is lined up for the Memorial and Colonial tourneys the next two weeks before coming here.
He's a firm believer in the old race track adage about horses for courses, pointing out that Avenel is a "big course, where a guy like me who keeps the ball in play and doesn't get into trouble can do well because the winner figures to be in the 8- to 15-under [par] area. It's those courses where 20-under wins that do me in because I don't putt as well as I should."
He was repeating the words that anybody who ever set out from the first tee probably uttered a thousand times.