Moved to fall in '07, Classic to lose Booz Allen sponsorship



The only PGA Tour event in the Washington area will be looking for its fourth title sponsor in the past six years after the conclusion of the 2006 Booz Allen Classic in June.

Ralph Shrader, the CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton, said yesterday that his company will not renew the contract it signed in 2004 as the title sponsor because the event was moved by the PGA Tour from its traditional early summer date to what his company viewed to be a less favorable fall spot beginning next year.

"When the tour made its decision about how it was going to lay out its schedule for 2007 and beyond, and gave us a date in the fall, we felt that that actually changed the dynamics significantly for us and that really did not give us the opportunity to have the kind of world-class event that we were seeking," Shrader said.

Booz Allen took over when FBR pulled its sponsorship after one year. The tournament had been sponsored by Kemper Insurance since the event's inception in 1968 and had been played in the nation's capital since moving to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda in 1980.

The event was moved to the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac in 1987, but was held last year at Congressional because Avenel was supposed to be undergoing a major renovation. Last year's event, played the week before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C., drew its best field and largest crowds in years.

"Last year's event was greatly encouraging to us because I think we demonstrated that given the appropriate venue and the right date, [we] could stage a world-class event where we had 17 or 18 of the top 20 players in the world, and we had a great event, great fan participation and I think a great deal of enthusiasm," Shrader said.

This year's event is scheduled for June 22-25, the week after the Open is played at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Typically, most of the top players take the week off after the Open.

Earlier this year, Shrader was caught by surprise when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced that the Booz Allen Classic would be pushed back to late September or early October beginning in 2007.

Though Finchem tried to put a positive spin on the date, saying that other tournaments had been successful at that time of the year, it was clear to Shrader that the tournament would become a second-tier event.

Despite pulling its title sponsorship, Booz Allen will continue to be "a major corporate participant" if the tournament continues in the Washington area. Shrader said that his company has pledged $1 million in corporate sponsorship for 2007. Shrader added that he is open to discussions about other events, including an LPGA tournament.

PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said yesterday that the tour is committed to finding a new title sponsor and is going ahead with plans to renovate Avenel.

"We think the tournament is going to function very effectively as part of the Fall Series, beginning in '07, and our efforts will now turn to locating and securing that title [sponsor]," Combs said. "There are a number of possibilities, I'm not at a point where we can talk about it. Suffice is to say, we're confident this can be done."

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