Jim Kemper, chairman of the board of the Kemper Group, said yesterday he foresees his golf tournament staying at Congressional Country Club "for a number of years" and proposed a $500 minimum payoff to every starter next year.
Kemper also advocated a $1,000 minimum check to every player who makes the cut. That would be an innovation for an open tournament on the PGA tour.
If the proposals are approved, as he expects, the Kemper purse would increase to $425,000 next year. The top money would be adjusted to provide the other $25,000 needed to make the proposal work. First prize might be reduced from $72,000 to $66,000 and other top money reduced accordingly.
Kemper said the tournament is "first class in the way it's operated. I'm a hacker (18 handicap), but this is a tremendous track. The tournament is run slick as grease. They've got a great spirit. I've never seen a better spirit than the way in which this tournament is run. We'd like to stay on a long time."
Steve Lesnick, who runs Kemper Sports Management, predicted the tournament would remain here at lease another decade. He confirmed that the 1982 Kemper Open will be held two weeks before the U.S. Open, as it was last year.
"If I had to wager," he said, "I'd have to say we'd be here at least for a decade or two. . . The decision whether to continue it does not depend exclusively on dollars and cents. Virtually everything is going right in the second year (here). This is the capital of the world and it's got to be a marvelous place to run a golf tournament."
Kemper said that out of pocket expenses for the first Kemper here last year were about $300,000. "We'd like to have 20,000 more people. Anybody would," he said. "To me, that ($300,000) is worth it with what we get out of it in advertising."
Kemper said he had been thinking about minimum checks for all starters for several years. But he said he did not decide on it until he went to a dinner party Friday night and talked with a player who missed the cut, cannot afford to bring his wife on tour and cannot afford to buy a house.
"I'm sure Deane (Beman, PGA tour commissioner, who is not here) will be in favor of this," Kemper said. "I can't imagine him saying no to this."
Kemper said such a move could lead to the all-exempt tour he favors.
Kemper is going into the second year of a four-year contract with an option year that guarantees Congressional a $250,000 annual fee and lets the club keep food and beverage revenues. The major question facing Congressional was whether a regular PGA tour event would be fun or drudgery the second time around, in the words of Ben Brundred, the general chairman.
"I tell you," Brundred said during yesterday's final round, "I've never seen our people have as much fun. You can carry one of these walkie-talkies around all day and listen to it."
With a rainy week, attendance this year was announced as 94,000, including 31,500 yesterday. Brundred has been saying last year's tournament drew 98,000 to 100,000. Tournament officials released statistics yesterday saying the 1980 total was 92,500.
Nevertheless, Lesnick says gate receipts increased this year. He always has refused to discuss specifics, but said the pretournament sales were up about 15 percent.
Two weeks ago, Brundred said he expected pretournament ticket sales of about $500,000, only $150,000 less than last year's entire gate receipts.
"As of Saturday," Lesnick said, "we were ahead of last year." He said statistics are obtained by "eyeballing the crowd. There's no way of actually knowing how many people are out here. Who knows how many people that buy tickets in advance come out? . . . When we came here, we thought about not announcing crowds and saying, 'Your guess is as good as ours.' We're very well satisfied."
Lesnick said that he was disappointed with the field, which lacked 13 of the year's top 20 money winners and such luminaries as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer.
"I understand there were circumstances beyond anybody's control this year," he said. "We don't make graduation schedules; we don't schedule weddings. Next year we know we'll have our usual strong field. Last year it was No. 1 in terms of the number of top money winners."
Scheduling the Kemper two weeks before the Open returns the tourney to "our traditional spot," Lesnick said. "The tour recognizes that two weeks before the Open is best for the Kemper. How it (the dates) affect anything, including the field, I don't know. But we're more comfortable with that date."
Lesnick and Brundred said some club members were unhappy because several tour players griped about the hard, bumpy greens earlier in the week. The rains made the greens soft and smoother, and tour players did little complaining later in the week when they were shooting the lowest scores of the PGA tournaments at Congressional, a U.S. Open, a PGA and two Kempers.
"We had a lot of irate members about the bad publicity we got," said Brundred, referring to a comment made by Barry Jaeckel that the ninth green was the worst he had seen in his seven years on tour. "Our people are proud, especially to bring major league golf to the Washington area. That's got a lot of them angry, but it's blown over."
Or, as Brundred put it yesterday, "It's been a carnival."