The pro golf tour returns to Congressional Country Club this week for the $400,000 Kemper Open. Practice rounds are scheduled Monday and Tuesday, a pro-am is set for Wednesday and four rounds of tournament play begin Thursday. Staff writer Mark Asher answers some frequently asked questions about the tournament and the PGA Tour.
How does someone join the PGA Tour?
You send in your entry fee of $1,000 for qualifying school. You play in local, divisional and final qualifying school. The final qualifying school is held each fall at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and the top 50 players there earn Tour cards for the next year. The next 50 qualify for the Tournament Players Series, a satellite tour of 10 events worth about $150,000 each.
How many players are in the Kemper field?
One hundred fifty-six.
How does a pro enter the Kemper Open?
The PGA Tour has an all-exempt list of 125 players, based on the previous year's money winnings (the cutoff was $28,596, by John Fought), plus other categories such as former champions of major events, bringing the total number of exempt players to 176. If still more players are required to complete a field, they come from the top 50 finishers in last fall's qualifying school. There also are eight local exemptions and eight sponsor exemptions. The eight sponsor exemptions are Bill Calfee, Gary Marlowe, Marty West, Jerry Heard, Bob Tway, Gavin Levenson, Rick Pearson and Sammy Rachels.
What happened to the Tour rabbits?
In a policy decision, the PGA Tour eliminated Monday qualifying this year and extended the exempt list. Thus, the Tour rabbits, as the Monday qualifiers were known, are extinct. Some rabbits who did not make it at qualifying school attempt to get in through the local qualifying.
How and when is the field cut?
After 36 holes, the low 70 scorers plus ties qualify for the final two rounds; Each player making the cut receives at least $1,000 out of the total purse of $400,000; the winner gets $72,000.
Who runs the tournament?
The Kemper Open Executive Committee, composed of 16 people, of whom the general chairman Bob Miller, a member of Congressional, and executive director Labron Harris Jr., an employe of Kemper Sports Management, are in charge. Play during the tournament is under the direction of Jack Tuthill, PGA Tour tournament director.
What's the arrangement between Congressional and the Kemper Group?
Congressional is now in the fourth year of a four-year contract with Kemper, and the members of Congressional recently voted a two-year extension of that contract. Under terms of that contract, Congressional receives a yearly guarantee from Kemper (believed to be $250,000) and keeps all profits on food sales in the clubhouse.
Where are Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson?
Nicklaus will be attending a number of activities surrounding his daughter's high school graduation; the Kemper is not on Watson's schedule because he is preparing for the upcoming U.S. Open, according to Kemper officials.
Who are the caddies?
Most of the top players travel with their own; the club provides them for players who ask.
What's the best way to get to Congressional?
Take the Beltway to the River Road exit and take River Road towards Potomac and follow the signs. To get to the main parking lot of Persimmon Tree Road south of the club, take MacArthur Boulevard and follow the signs.
What are the best places to park?
The main parking lot on Persimmon Tree Road. That costs $4. The tournament parking lots will hold 10,000 cars, according to tournament officials. Some spectators choose River Road and surrounding streets, which are free unless you get ticketed by the Montgomery County Police. Some residents of the area also have rented spots in their driveways and yards.
How much are the tickets?
For Monday and Tuesday practice rounds, tickets are $6. From Wednesday through Sunday, tickets are $15 for grounds only and $22 for grounds and clubhouse.
Why are tickets so expensive?
Tournament spokesmen say tickets are not expensive compared to those for other major sporting events. Fifteen dollars allows you to see a day's play, working out to about $1.50 per hour, a price tournament spokesman Mike Ortman says "is cheap."
Are there any discount tickets?
Yes. A season grounds badge is $60, instead of the daily fee at $87 total, and a season clubhouse badge is $90, instead of $122 on a daily fee basis. These season tickets will be available through June 1. Children 15 and under accompanied by an adult may buy tickets (grounds only) at the main gate tournament days only for $5.
Who are the marshals, and what do they do?
They are volunteers who are members of other country clubs in the area. Their duties include gallery/crowd control within the playing area.
What is the proper etiquette for fans?
To be still and quiet while players are shooting, and to follow the instruction of the marshals.
Can I take pictures of my favorite golfer?
Only in the practice rounds and the pro-am. Cameras will not be allowed on the grounds after Wednesday.
What are the best holes from which to watch?
According the Labron Harris Jr., the best areas at which to see the most holes with the least walking are the fourth green and the 15th green. For masochists, the sixth and 10th holes offer second shots over water, and the 18th green is surrounded by water. A tip: bring binoculars.
What kind of concessions are available?
There are beer, sodas, hot dogs, ham and swiss cheese sandwiches, coffee, potato chips, ice cream, Polish sausages and white wine at concession stands throughout the course. Food also is available in the clubhouse, for those with clubhouse badges. No coolers on the grounds.
Who gets into the clubhouse?
Players, members, tournament officials, media and clubhouse ticket holders.
How much does it cost to belong to Congressional?
A $10,000 initiation fee and $125 per month.
Is there a waiting list?
"A very substantial one," according to Miller.
Who gets the revenues from the tournament?
Congressional gets a $250,000 guarantee and charities receive $110,000, $60,000 of it designated by the Kemper Group and the rest by Congressional. Those charities benefiting this year will be Boys Clubs of America ($50,000); Alcohol and Highway Safety Commission of Montgomery County ($10,000), and Hospice Care of Northern Virginia, Hospice Care of the District of Columbia, Maryland Sheriffs Boys Ranch, Ronald McDonald House, Boy Scouts of America National Capital Area Council, Cabin John Fire Department, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Heroes Inc., Salvation Army Washington and Northern Virginia Division, and Washington Home ($5,000 each).
Will the tournament be televised locally?
Yes, live by CBS on Saturday and Sunday, and delayed by USA Cable on Friday night. The Sunday time will depend on the status of the NBA playoffs.
What can be learned from the players?
Some fans like to pick up pointers by following players. There also is a clinic at 5 p.m. Tuesday by Bobby Clampett on the practice range. It is free to anyone with a ticket for that day.
Who's the defending champion?
Craig Stadler, who also won in 1981 and finished second to John Mahaffey in 1980, the year the tournament moved here from Charlotte, N.C. Stadler has won $197,200 in prize money here in three years, in addition to Waterford crystal valued at about $60,000. If Stadler wins, he will become the ninth golfer in the past 50 years to win the same tournament three straight times.