PREPARE FOR '05 The golf industry knows it must "grow the game," which is to say it has to convince more people to try the sport and then stick with it once they do. And so it is producing events like Play Golf America Day, held at Hilltop Golf Course in Alexandria on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Information: 703-719-6504)
It's a good chance to wrap your brain around your '05 season before much damage occurs. Events include clinics for various playing levels, five-minute instructional tune-ups, free range balls, hands-on testing of major-maker gear and those always popular demonstrations by trick-shot artists. Thirty PGA teaching pros will roam the grounds offering on the spot diagnostics (stop us if you're heard this one: "let's take a look at that grip . . .").
TAKE 10 Speaking of brief instructional interventions, during May you can get a quick tutorial at no charge from any PGA pro who has signed onto the group's annual program called Free Lesson Month. Go to www.playgolfamerica.com, enter your zip code in the search field and check the "Free Lesson Month" box. You'll find a list of facilities where you can set up a lesson.
So what can you really accomplish in ten minutes? Go to www.golfdigest.com (the magazine is a program sponsor) and enter "Laird Small" in the search field. You'll find a transcript of a quickie lesson -- and be surprised at how much useful stuff a skilled teacher can impart in the time it takes the rest of us to microwave a frozen burrito.
AND THEN, WATCH THE PROS DO IT It's going to be one of the best seasons in recent memory for local golf spectators:
The annual Booz-Allen Classic PGA Tour event will be held at Bethesda's Congressional Country Club. (Host course Avenel is undergoing a long-pined-for renovation.) Congressional is loved by players and fans, and this year's schedule places the Booz-Allen the week before the U.S. Open held at Pinehurst, N.C., making a stronger than usual field of golfers looking to tune up for the Open. Hungry-for-a-win Ernie Els is expected, as are top-ranked first-namers Phil and Vijay. Local hero Fred Funk, former golf coach at the University of Maryland is fresh off his victory in the Player's Championship, is always in the field. Defending champion is Adam Scott, the young star known for his smooth, eerily Tiger-esque swing. Dates: June 9-12 Ticket and event information: www.boozallenclassic.com or 301-469-3737
The downside of the Booz-Allen schedule: on the very same weekend, Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Md., hosts the McDonald's LPGA Championship, which draws a field of the world's best female golfers. The defending champ is Annika Sorenstam. Dates: June 9-12 For ticket and event information: www.mcdslpgachampionship.com or 877-776-5742
In September the Robert Trent Jones Club, an exclusive private course on Prince William County's Lake Manassas, will host the President's Cup. The biannual match-play competition pits a dream team of U.S. players against a squad of the best non-European golfers from around the world. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who agreed to a gentlemanly tie when the cup was last contested, in South Africa 2003, will return as captains. The field will be as rich in talent as any that appears in the Washington area. Date: Sept 20-25 Tickets: www.presidentscup.com or 877-773-9849