PGA confirms no D.C. tourney

Area won't have event for 1st time since '80

Golf

July 07, 2006|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

Like the Washington Senators in 1971, the PGA Tour is leaving the nation's capital. When, where and if professional golf returns remains up for debate.

In a statement released yesterday, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced that the Washington, D.C., area would be without a tour stop in 2007 due to a major overhaul of the Tournament Players Club at Avenel, which has hosted a tour event since 1987.

It will mark the first time since 1980, when the Kemper Open moved to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda from Charlotte, N.C., that a regular PGA Tour event won't be held in the area. The Presidents Cup has been played four times in the past 12 years at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va.

"In light of our construction timetable, and after a comprehensive review of all our options, we have determined that a tour event in the fall of 2007 will not be feasible," Finchem said in a statement.

Finchem said prior to the start of the recently concluded Booz Allen Classic that the fairways and greens at Avenel will be totally reseeded, and that upon approval by the Montgomery County zoning board, other parts of the course that often flooded during heavy rains would be reconfigured.

There would also be major renovations to the clubhouse and practice facilities. The total cost of the project would be between $18 million and $20 million, and would be finished in 2008. The tour is hoping that an event could be played at the Potomac facility in 2008, but is in need of a corporate sponsor.

Booz Allen Hamilton, a Washington-D.C. based consulting firm, did not renew its contract after taking over the tournament in 2004. Booz Allen had been the event's third corporate sponsor in the past four years.

"Our goal with this significant upgrade to TPC Avenel is to ensure that it will serve as a top-flight tournament venue," Finchem said. "The tour remains committed to the Washington, D.C., market and we look forward to returning in the future with top-level PGA Tour golf competition."

For the most part, the event at Avenel has been a second-tier tournament since its first year. It didn't help that Greg Norman, then one of the top players on the tour, made his infamous remark about the par-3 ninth hole.

Asked how the hole could be improved, Norman said, "Blow it up."

Finchem conceded before last month's event that the PGA Tour, which owns the property, came a year or two too early to Avenel, leading to comments by Norman and others who continually stayed away from the tournament.

This year's event proved to be a sad, but fitting, conclusion.

There was a lackluster field that failed to attract a single player ranked in the world's top 20. Defending champion Sergio Garcia, who won at Congressional, withdrew after the prior week's U.S. Open due to injury.

The tournament was hampered by bad weather, with torrential rains that flooded the region forcing the event to finish on Tuesday, the first time a PGA Tour event had gone that long since 1980.

As a result, the crowds that once swelled to more than 50,000 at Avenel were a fraction of that. Ben Curtis, who hadn't won since his surprise victory at the 2003 British Open, went wire-to-wire in posting a five-stroke win.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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