PGA To Pass On D.C. In 2007
Friday, July 7, 2006
The Washington area will not host a PGA Tour event next season and may not get one until at least the 2009 season, ending 27 years of big-time men's professional tournament golf in the nation's capital.
The tour, which announced in January that the area would be bumped from its regular early summer spot in the schedule, said yesterday that Washington will not be included on its fall schedule in 2007 because the tour plans to begin a major renovation at TPC Avenel, the Potomac venue for the area's regular tour stop since 1987.
The renovation, likely to cost around $25 million, will include major work on a number of holes, an extensive upgrading in drainage throughout the property and a significant makeover of the clubhouse.
A tour spokesman said yesterday the work will begin as soon as the permitting process is completed in Montgomery County, either later this year or early in 2007.
Unhappy with the schedule changes announced in January, Booz Allen Hamilton, the event's title sponsor for the past three years, declined to renew its contract. As recently as two weeks ago, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held out the possibility that Avenel could host an event in the fall of 2007, if a new title sponsor could be found. Yesterday's announcement eliminated that scenario.
The fall schedule includes six or seven events to be contested after the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. The tournaments will be televised by the Golf Channel and have been billed as "The Race For The Card," meaning that fields will be made up mostly of players trying to earn enough money to remain in the top 125 on the money list and exempt for the following season.
Kemper Sports Management, which has been running the tournament, has been in the process of trying to replace Booz Allen, which wanted a date before the U.S. Open, the better to attract the game's top players. This year's final Booz Allen Classic, held the week after the Open, attracted only one player ranked among the top 30 in the world.
Kemper Sports Management President Steve Skinner said yesterday his firm's sponsor search will continue, but that the most realistic time frame for tournament golf to return to the Washington area is 2009.
"I get the sense that the commissioner has heard loud and clear the importance of big-time tournament golf to the Washington community," Skinner said yesterday. "I think they'll try to do something, and we're going to continue to work to bring top level golf here."
Marty Russo, chairman of Washington Golf Charities, said his organization also will stay in business and look for other ways to raise money for local charities. He said that could take the form of a celebrity golf tournament, an event using a smaller number of PGA Tour players in a one- or two-day event, or even the possibility of an LPGA tournament.
"Everything is on the table," Russo said. "And we're going to do everything we can to get a world-class tournament back in Washington. It's going to take awhile to get Avenel done. I would think it's going to take at least two years to do what they're talking about. I would think 2009 at least. And when the tour gets its act together, we'll try to bring a big tournament back."