Deane Beman's gift to his home town -- an annual professional golf tournament -- officially came to pass yesterday.
In the process, Beman probably pulled off one of his best all-around coups in five years as PGA commissioner.
"I'm doing cartwheels," said Beman after yesterday's announcement that the third-richest prize-money event on tour -- the $350,000 Kemper Open -- would be played at Congressional Country Club starting in 1980.
"A four-year contract has been signed," said a beaming Beman, "but I expect it may turn into 40 years.
"I've thought for a long time, even before I became commissioner, that Washington just had too many doggone golfers to be without an important event. It was a mistake in scheduling.
"We've worked for years to get an event here, but it had to be the right one. I think we've done it.
"In fact, I don't think Washington even realizes yet what it's got."
"Frankly, we expect the 'Congressional Open' to become perhaps the strongest event on the tour after the four majors and the TPC," said one PGA official. "After a couple of years, it should be one of our jewels."
"We have almost every other sports event in this town. Now we have golf," said Congressional President Ben Brundred. "The Washington market is the greatest untapped area of golf enthusiasm left in the nation. Now if Jim Kemper would just buy us a baseball team....
"This is potentially an ideal marriage, though you never know until after you're married."
Besides its large prize money, the Kemper will retain its plum date two weeks before the mid-June U.S. Open, a time when top players want to play a difficult course to tune up their games.
"We've got a great, proven golf course; high prize money; a great time of year -- early June -- when Congressional is in top playing condition and an attractive city for the players to visit," said Beman.
"I can't believe that such a combination won't draw one of the best fields of the year."
The PGA, Congressional and Kemper are all delighted with their fiscal marriage. Only Charlotte, N.C., where the event has lost as much as $100,000 in recent years, is frowning.
"Charlotte feels kind of used and discarded," said one veteran newsman from that city. "But it's been expected. The tournament has lost money. How are you gonna keep 'em down in Charlotte after they've seen D.C.?"
Kemper is happy because it envisions a slovent tournament with heightened prestige from being in the nation's capital. In addition, Kemper now is able to guarantee a minimum of $100,000 to charity from the proceeds. That's important, since the whole idea of an insurance company sponsoring a golf tournament is for advertising and public-relations benefits.
Congressional is happy, too, because, in Brundred's words, "the club is in sound financial condition now, but this is an excellent hedge against inflation."
"A lot of famous clubs may have financial problems down the road," said Beman. "I think Congressional is being foresighted."
Congressional is also sure of basking in a glow of undeniable civicimindedness.
"We have a profit margin in this. We reach into the pot on an equal basis with charity," said Brundred. "But we also fell that we have realized a certain civic responsibility. Also, it's a pleasure for us to see the best players in the world playing on our own course."
Perhaps, however, the PGA is most delighted of all. It has turned an event that bordered on being a loser into one that may be a big winner. Where Charlotte's modest Quail Hollow Country Club was a wide-open, low-scoring course that suffered bad fairway burns from drought in recent years, Congressional is a majestic layout worthy of holding the 1964 U.S. Open and the 1976 PGA.
"Playing regular tour events on classic courses like Congressional is a top tour priority," said Beman.