Deane Beman, PGA Tour commissioner, said yesterday that the Kemper Open golf tournament is considering a move to Congressional Country Club from Charlotte, N.C., in 1980.
The major hurdle remaining is approval by the Congressional club membership. Positive votes also are needed by the PGA Tour Policy Board and by the Kemper Insurance Co.'s board of directors, but Beman and a Kemper executive said they expect approval by their boards.
The Kemper has been played in Charlotte the past 10 years. This year, it was held June 1-4, two weeks before the U.S. Open, for a $300,000 purse, one of the tour's largest.
Beman said the tournament's future date on the tour calender would be similar. The dates are considered prime here because of weather and because of a tour event played two weeks before a major championship usually draws the best players. An initial five-year contract has been proposed for Congressional.
The members at Congressional, site of the 1964 U.S. Open and 1976 PGA Championship, will vote by mail ballot sometime within the next month, Dr. Karl Jonas, chairman of Congressional's golf committee, said yesterday.
Beman initiated the talks between Congressional and Kemper Insurance, which is headquartered in Long Grove, Ill. Beman, who grew up in this area, would like a tour event in the Washington area.
Congressional is the only Washington-area club considered suitable for a PGA Tour event because of its championship course and the surrounding property for parking space to handle the daily galleries of 20,000 or more.
Jonas said he had no indication whether Congressional's 1,000 members would approve the area's first tour event since the Carling Open was held in the early 1960s at Indian Spring. He said he had informally polled about a dozen members.
"What they said is what I think you'll find universally among the membership," Jonas said. "They want to have more details - about what the demands would be, about what the inconvenience would be to the membership, about the advantages, about the disadvantages."
In its last two major votes concerning golf, the membership approved holding the PGA Championship by a 95 percent majority and approved purchasing land for the club's recently opened new nine holes by an 88 percent majority, Jonas said.
"The membership is pretty progressive," Jonas said, "and I'm inclined to think they'll take the broad view and think this is the thing to do. If not, the board of directors will be happy to abide by their decision.
"I hope it's a wide margin. The board would have to weight it carefully if the vote is close. It's not good to have a diversive action."
The major advantages for Congressional are prestige and money. Jonas said that revenues from the tournament could offset inflationary trends that would increase dues and assessments. He said Congressional last raised its dues in 1976.
The major disadvantage is obvious: the members would not be able to use the course for at least a week. Jonas said that, unlike with the Open and PGA, Congressional would not be forced to let the rough grow or to reduce the hitting areas of the fairways.
The decision on which 18 of Congressional's 36 holes would make up the Kemper course would be made by Congressional, Jonas said. He said that decision and other details on the tournament could not be considered until the membership approved the tournament coming here.
Congressional and Kemper officials met for the first time Tuesday, after Beman approached Steve Lesnik, a Kemper vice president in charge of public relations, advertising and government relations, two weeks ago.
"You could say we both went into the meeting thinking it was exploratory, not knowing where it would lead, if anywhere, and we both came away with a sense of excitement," Lesnik said.
"The chemistry of the meeting was positive. Deane feels so strongly that Washington ought to have a major PGA Tour event. Based on what we discussed yesterday (Tuesday), I feel confident our board will act favorably."
Lesnik cited the following reasons why Kemper would leave Charlotte:
Congressional's course, which he described as "very famous, very prestigious and one the players like."
The Washington market. "In a move to any city," Lesnik said, "you consider the kind of people, their interests and how they're oriented."
The Washington area allowing the sponsor an opportunity to raise more money for charity, what Lesnik called a prime aim of the Kemper Open. He said Kemper has contributed $25,000 annually to charities in Charlotte. He said he could foresee that amount increasing into the $50,000-$100,000 range annually here.