Kemper drops PGA stop sponsorship

Economic decline blamed for end of 35-year support


April 16, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The longest continuous title sponsorship with the PGA Tour has ended. The Kemper Insurance Open, which began in Boston in 1968 and has been played in suburban Washington since 1980, will now be called the Capital Open.

The PGA Tour announced yesterday that the Chicago-based insurance company has dropped its sponsorship of the $4.5 million event, which will be played May 29-June 1 at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel.

Ben Brundred, the tournament's former general chairman who is now chairman of the tournament's board of governors, said that a declining economy was the principal cause for the breakup.

FOR THE RECORD - Also, the dates of the upcoming Capital Open golf tournament at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel were reported incorrectly in yesterday's editions. The tournament will be played June 5-8.
The Sun regrets the error.

"It's been coming," Brundred said yesterday by telephone from the Potomac club. "The Kemper Insurance Companies' economic situation has been going the wrong way for quite a long time. But I don't think it will have any impact at all [on the event]."

Brundred said that he has had "four or five" sessions with potential title sponsors, which he declined to name, and said that an announcement could come shortly after this year's tournament is played.

"Washington, D.C., is a very attractive property, even in this economy," said Brundred.

The contract with the PGA Tour is for four more years, Brundred said. There had been talk of moving the tournament to another location in the area, or possibly relocating for a year if the TPC at Avenel goes through a long-rumored major renovation.

This year's event, which will take place the week before the U.S. Open outside Chicago, will feature a number of highly ranked players, including Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington of Ireland.

Aside from defending champion Bob Estes, others who have committed include reigning PGA champion and former Kemper Open champion Rich Beem, as well as local favorite Fred Funk. Ty Tryon, who as a 17-year-old made the tour last year before losing his card, also is scheduled to play.

One who isn't expected is Tiger Woods. After being told last year by Woods' representatives that the world's No. 1 player was seriously considering making his first appearance in the area since the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional, Brundred is not counting on Woods coming this year.

"Unless something drastically changes, he doesn't play the week before the Open," Brundred said.

The tournament has also moved to ABC from CBS.

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