Going for a New Look

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The earth has been moving for months at the golf course formerly known as TPC at Avenel, the site of all those Kemper Opens and Booz Allen Classics since the PGA Tour opened the facility in 1986.

And if Tiger Woods has a little time on his hands today on his one-day trip to the Washington suburbs, he just might want to put on some rubber boots and take a look at the massive $25 million golf course and clubhouse renovation the tour believes will challenge not only the 800 members of the Potomac club but also the best players in the world.

Woods will be in the Avenel neighborhood today for a news conference at nearby Congressional Country Club to promote his signature tournament, the AT&T National in early July. Woods's event is scheduled to be held this year and next at Congressional, about a mile from Avenel's first tee. But Congressional also is preparing to host the 2011 U.S. Open, and Woods and his foundation, which runs the AT&T National, have been looking for a replacement venue for 2010 and 2011.

PGA Tour officials say they are putting no pressure on Woods to hold his tournament at their golf course, which is scheduled to reopen in November with a new look as well as a new name, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms. But after investing so much in the renovation, the tour clearly has high-level tournament golf very much in mind.

According to sources granted anonymity because no plans have been set, the tour also is exploring the possibility of conducting the Senior Players Championship, one of four majors on the Champions Tour, at the newly configured course. That tournament, usually scheduled in the fall, has a contract to play at Baltimore Country Club/Five Farms in Timonium, Md., through 2010, about the same time TPC Potomac should have matured enough for tournament play. But the tour knows a senior major championship in the nation's capital likely would draw bigger crowds and more media coverage.

David Pillsbury, president of PGA Tour Golf Properties, said that neither he nor the tour is focused on the possibility of Woods's tournament, or any other event, being played at the newly upgraded course.

"We know we're not the ones who will say this is now an 'A' facility," Pillsbury said. "It's not for us to say. It's the players who will tell us. We've tried to take this piece of land and make the best possible golf course we can build and let the golfers decide and tell us how we did. At the end of the day, we'll let the course speak for itself."

The tour officially will announce the facility's name change this week, emphasizing a new beginning for a previously maligned venue.

"It's a brand new golf course and clubhouse," Pillsbury said. "It has new features that now accentuate this beautiful piece of land. We think it will create a totally different feel for the course. It's something we're all very proud of. It's very special."

'Our Charge Was to Fix It'

A brigade of bulldozers and other heavy equipment has been doing the dirty work for months on every hole on the course, carving and grading and even rerouting many fairways, raising and lowering or totally reconstructing new tees and greens, and gouging out a series of newly designed fairway and greenside bunkers.

Just as significant, the project has rehabilitated an eyesore of a drainage ditch (also known as Rock Run Stream) that gashed through a number of holes into an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly tributary. That is hoped to finally end Avenel's longtime flooding problems, with non-intrusive flood plains built away from the fairways and an additional 12 acres of wetlands added to the property.

"Over time, as the course matured, it seemed like we had hundred-year storms every two or three years," said Charles Zink, the tour's co-chief operating officer and a former University of Maryland golfer. "We'd lose all the low lying areas regularly. Our charge was to fix it. The clubhouse had also aged, and we went through a number of renditions on that.

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