At Congressional Country Club, the greens look rich, the desserts look rich, even the band members in their tuxedos look rich. But trying to assess the economic impact of the $400,000 Kemper Open on the Washington area is not easy.
Steve Lesnik, the president of Kemper Sports Management, estimated that the tournament generates $3.5 million to $4 million in income. Lesnik said he was in part extrapolating from a study done by the Charlotte, N.C., Chamber of Commerce that showed the tournament generated about $2 million when it was held there.
Lesnik says the Kemper Group made hotel reservations totaling 1,830 nights for approximately 1,100 persons, including 500-600 independent Kemper insurance agents. The tournament created 200 temporary paying jobs and 1,000 volunteer jobs, two-thirds of which are filled by Congressional members.
Perry Arthur, a touring pro who earned $1,825 last year playing golf, said he will spend $1,000 on air fare, hotel, food and caddy fees, or $80 to $100 a day -- "$80 if you're skimping . . . You're talking about an expensive week of golf and that's not even fooling around money . . . I went down and saw the sights . . . "
Austin Kenny, vice president of the Washington Area Convention and Visitors Association, said: "There is a definite (economic) value but there is no way in God's green earth to measure it."
Much of the money is being spent at suburban hotels and restaurants, such as the Potomac Sheraton and the Bethesda Marriott. Stuart Kines, general manager of the Potomac Sheraton, said: "It's a tremendous economic plus for the area."
Mel Krupin, a restaurateur, said: "We haven't seen any of them (golfers). They must be eating in Burger Chefs and Marriotts. They're not downtown."
Bobby Abbo, owner of the Roma Restaurant, said: "They don't go out and spend money and drink. They're not like football players . . . It's a treat for the city to have them here. As far as getting rich on them, I don't think that's going to happen. They just don't stay out until 2 a.m. That's the best way I know to make the cut."
Kenny said: "There is no question that the public relations value is far greater than the dollar value. It's part of building the image of the city. It's a major tournament on one of the best golf courses in the United States. You get television coverage, sports page coverage and it's done under a favorable light. It's not like when the Labor Department says unemployment went up again, and everyone says, 'Damn them in Washington.'"
James Kemper Jr., chairman of the board for the Kemper Group, said the tournament deficit is "in excess of $300,000, exclusive of the television commercials. That includes $110,000 that goes to charity."
By contrast, Kemper said, "a 60-second commercial on the Super Bowl costs $350,000 . . . This is the most inexpensive kind of advertising you can do."
Dr. Karl Jonas, president of Congressional, said the benefits for the area are "economic and psychological. It makes us think it's a place where things happen. It makes us feel like it's on the front line of sports events."
Kemper and Jonas said they are happy with the relationship between the tournament and the club and see no reason it should not continue. "We have a four-year contract and an option to continue for a fifth year without renegotiating," Kemper said. "We'll probably start talking, preliminary discussions, before next year's tournament."
The last time the issue was put before the 1,650 voting members of the club, Jonas said, 87 percent of the members supported the tournament. "There has been very little negative feedback" since then, he said.
Some members say they like the tournament because of the improvements that have been made as a result of it. "A lot of people like it because they think it will cut down on the dues," one club member said.
"Most tournaments take five years to get really established," said Kemper, who is "delighted" with the move to Washington. "If we could increase the daily attendence, exclusive of advance sales, by 50 or 60 percent, that would be a favorable sign. I'd like to see it double. But we're so dependent on the weather."
So far the indications are good. On Thursday, Lesnik said, the gate sales were triple the equivalent day a year ago; daily crowd figures are not being announced, though, and officials are not generally talkative about economics.
Jonas said he believed advance sales increased $100,000-$120,000 this year.
"I hit a drive off the first tee in the pro-am and I got a round of applause," touring pro Lon Hinkle said. "It seems like the people here kind of care.Some cities the tour has been playing in for 50 years, it's you've seen one, you've seen them all . . . I think people are kind of grateful to have a tournament here."