So Long, Senior Championship

Pga Tour Moves Major To Potomac's Avenel For 2010, Says It Will Return To Area In 2011

November 05, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

The PGA Tour's decision to move next year's Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship from Baltimore Country Club in Timonium to the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm did not surprise BCC general manager Michael Stott, but he has mixed feelings about it leaving.

The move, which the tour announced Wednesday, was first broached to Stott shortly after the 2009 event ended last month. Jay Haas came from behind to beat Tom Watson at Five Farms.

Stott graciously accepted the tour's decision to leave Baltimore and then return in 2011, with Constellation Energy remaining as title sponsor.

"You could see the logic in it [moving to Potomac] since Tiger's event was not going to be in Washington next summer," Stott said Wednesday. "There are pluses and minuses, obviously. Whenever you have a championship over consecutive years, it becomes easier. When you take a year lapse, there's a period of rediscovery and reinventing."

Tour officials and officials at the clubs involved all say the move is tied to Tiger Woods taking his three-year-old AT&T National from Congressional Country Club in Bethesda to Aronomink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa. Woods' tournament, which he hosts and won last year, will be held at Aronomink in 2010 and 2011, when the U.S. Open is scheduled at Congressional.

But the departure of the Seniors Players Championship leaves the Baltimore area next summer without any professional golf tournaments for the first time since 1997. The LPGA Championship left Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace in June after a five-year stay.

The PGA Tour, which spent a reported $25 million renovating its Potomac property, is hoping to attract many more fans in the Washington suburbs. Since moving from Michigan to Maryland in 2007, the late-season major championship saw crowds thin and corporate support plateau in a declining economy.

According to tournament director Steve Schoenfeld, the tournament raised $400,000 for local charities in each of its first two years and is expected to go over $1 million for its first three.

"There's no secret that Washington is bigger than Baltimore," Schoenfeld said. "We look at it as the best of both worlds."

Along with a larger fan base, and the potential for more corporate support, the switch to the former home of the Kemper Open and Booz Allen Classic could be used by the PGA Tour to showcase one of its own courses. The TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm was recently was named among the best new venues in the country.

TPC Potomac general manager Mike Sullivan said it was too early to say whether the Senior Players Championship would move there for a longer run beginning in 2012. "We'll have to see what happens; a lot of it is contingent on if they can find a title sponsor" after 2011, Sullivan said. "It's not a club decision. We'll try it for a year, get some feedback from the players, test the waters a little bit."

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