The coming golf season holds extra promise, because in addition to a usual attractive tournament schedule, the Washington area has landed one of the PGA Tour's premier events, the $400,000 Kemper Open at Congressional County Club May 29-June 1.
"The whole picture is going to be perfect," said host pro Bob Benning. "At that time of the year, the grass is healthiest and the flowers will still be in bloom."
"It is also two weeks before the U.S. Open (at Baltusrol) and every one of the top players will be here, trying to get sharp and tournament tough." o
The big purse, with a cool $72,000 for the winner, Congressional in the full blush of a Washington spring and the predog-day coolness make the Kemper a jewel.
The weather has plagued major tournaments at Congressional in the past. Ken Venturi collapsed in late June heat after winning the 1964 U.S. Open. kThat was the last year the Open was played at 36 holes on the final day. Dave Stockton won the 1976 PGA amid heat and thunderstorms.
Tournament Chairman Ben Brundred Jr. said the Kemper-Congressional contract is for four year, but "If it works out, if the area likes it and we like the tournament, we hope it will be in perpetuity." The Kemper spent its previous 10 years in Charlotte, N.C.
Benning, in a classy gesture, handed his sponsor exemption to his teaching pro, Maryland Open champ Wheeler Stewart. Walker Cup player Marty West, top amateur in the area for the last decade, also gained a sponsor exemption. Washington touring pro Lee Elder also will tee it up, as will Larry Ringer, who gained entry by virtue of his win in the Middle Atlantic PGA section championship last summer.
Nicklaus, Trevino, Player, Crenshaw? All the big boys stop here.
The local schedule also shows attractive events. The Women's District Golf Association will hold its championship June 16-20 at the sporty Argyle layout. Argyle and Manor will host the U.S. Open sectional trials June 2.
Frank Emmet, acknowledged father of American junior golf who recently turned 80, will spend his 52nd year swatters.
West, who last summer birdied his way to another Maryland Amateur victory, will try to fend off challengers at Baltimore's Green Spring Valley June 19-22.
Stewart, who could pass for a model in a men's fashion catalog, guns for his second Maryland Open crown at Indian Spring July 7-9.
Stewart, Ringer, Mark Alwin and the rest of the Middle Atlantic PGA talents will have to deal not only with three-putts, but with skyrocketing gas prices. Their MAPGA championship will be at tough Shannon Green in Fredericksburg, Va., April 21-22.
The District Amateur is slated for Chantilly July 17-20 and the Middle Atlantic Golf Association has Congressional for its showcase men's amateur Oct. 2-5.
Young Virginians Tony DeLucas and Rob Black scored their biggest wins last season.Big DeLuca, who powers the ball 280 yards consistently, outdueled old pro Chandler Harper to win the stroke-play Virginia PGA Open last year. Black turned back smooth-swinging airline pilot George Andre to win the match-play District Amateur at International.