After LPGA's International Crown, more tournaments could be in Caves Valley's future

Owings Mills club eyeing future events, such as USGA Junior championship and Tiger Woods' PGA Tour event

May 06, 2013|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

When the United States Golf Association packed up its corporate tents after the 2002 Senior Open concluded, Caves Valley returned to its roots as a private club that was selective in the tournaments it hosted. Mandated to promote the amateur ranks, the Owings Mills club welcomed a handful of events in the intervening years — none involving professionals.

That will change in the summer of 2014, when the Ladies Professional Golf Association's inaugural International Crown comes to Baltimore County for a four-day, match-play event featuring four-player teams from eight different countries.

According to club chairman Steve Fader, next summer's event could be a relaunching pad for Caves Valley in terms of it becoming a destination for historical tournaments such as the USGA Junior Championship as well as the high-profile PGA Tour event hosted by Tiger Woods.

In a telephone interview Monday, Fader said hosting a USGA Junior championship is more likely because "clearly at Caves Valley we see ourselves as a venue for USGA events." But Fader didn't rule out the possibility of Woods bringing his tournament to Baltimore in the future. The tournament's contract at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda runs through 2014.

"We've been approached by representatives from Tiger Woods and they've explored with us this rotational concept [of using three or four clubs to host]," Fader said. "We haven't made any commitment to it and we haven't been presented anything, but we would certainly take a look at it.

"Again, measure everything against the imperatives for the club, which are always, how does it affect our members, how does it affect our brand and how does it affect our community? If they checked those boxes off as positive, we would certainly take a hard look at it."

For the same reasons, the International Crown seemed to be as perfect a fit for Caves Valley as the 22-year-old club was for what the LPGA's plans for a biennial event run opposite the Solheim Cup, which like the Ryder Cup pits the U.S. against Europe.

Dennis Satyshur, the director of golf at Caves Valley since it opened, said the club was approached by the LPGA in early 2012 on the recommendation of the USGA. Satyshur made it clear that there are no plans of hosting the International Crown more than once, and that a late July date is a time when the club is less busy than in the spring and early fall.

"It's something that fits our profile. We thought it was a nice opportunity for us," Satsyhur said in his office Monday. "It's only a week, taking our club out of commission. Minimal interference, minimal imposition on our membership. It's an event our members will embrace."

Similarly, Caves Valley was a good landing spot for the LPGA for what tour officials are hoping to become a signature event outside the majors and the Solheim Cup.

"It was really important for us to have name recognition for an inaugural event like this," said Kraig Kann, the LPGA's chief communication officer. "Caves Valley brings that. They've got a great history. It's one of the best clubs in America. They've had a great tradition with major championships. Some of the LPGA stars have competed here [during the NCAA women's champonship in 2005]. There's a recognizability factor."

LPGA veteran Brittany Lang said Monday that she "didn't know a whole lot about it [the International Crown] until [Sunday]," but would very much like to make the U.S. team. She currently stands seventh among American players in the Rolex World Rankings.

"It's going to be tough with U.S. players being so strong, but I'd give anything to play in this," Lang said after playing nine holes and then having lunch at the club Monday. "It's not going to be as big as the Solheim, but it's going to be pretty special."

Unlike the 2002 Senior Open, Fader said, "I think it's going to be smaller and more intimate and having much more of an international feel to it. I think it's going to really give golf fans arguably a much more up-close-and-personal look ... as opposed to the Open and the 120,000 which we had over five or six days."

Aware of the issues the LPGA had generating corporate sponsorship when it held the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock from 2005 through 2009, Kamm said, "When we're looking to take event to certain cities and venues, you want to make sure this is going to be an event that everyone rallies around and that we don't have to beg, and there are people who are willing to step up and be volunteers and be willing to step up with corporate support and hospitality and willing to show that this is a great golf community."

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