Avenel was the site of a golf tournament this past weekend, but yesterday it looked like the circus had left town without some of its tents.
"Maybe," mused Kemper Open tournament chairman Ben Brundred, "what we need is another tornado to get all that down."
Brundred was waving out his window overlooking the 18th green, where Sunday evening Tom Kite accepted a $126,000 check for his seven-stroke, 14-under-par victory in the 1987 Kemper Open. The tents that stood on the knolls surrounding the green, forming what was known as Hospitality Hill, were starting to come down. About a dozen men from a local auto dealership were trying to figure out which keys went in which of about 70 white courtesy cars.
"We were really quite pleased with the way things went," Brundred said. "With the third humongous rain on Thursday and the parking lots, which contributed to the traffic problem on Friday," Brundred said, "the last two days were the best -- functionally and certainly financially -- we've had in Washington in eight years."
Brundred would not say how much money was made on the tournament, which until this year had been played at nearby Congressional Country Club, but he did say that a record number of people came out to watch. About 160,000 fans visited the new Tournament Players Club at Avenel during the week of play, surpassing the 134,000 who watched last year at Congressional. A single-day record of approximately 50,000 was set on Sunday.
"The Kemper is part of Washington culture, first of all, " Brundred said. "It was a very good field. Once we got the traffic solved, it was easier to walk on. Finally, a lot of people hadn't been here and were interested in seeing Avenel."
Brundred said there is a "long list of things for next year" that need adjustment, from the viewpoint of the fan and the golfer.
Thursday's rains flooded some parking areas and when the larger-than-expected crowd started arriving Friday, there was no place to put them. People were told to go home. With drier weather, the problem was solved to a great extent, as police reported only minor delays.
"I think we have that solved," Brundred said of the traffic situation. "Friday traffic is always going to be something of a problem because of the heavy, regular commuter traffic. But we're going to sit down with police and try to re-route some of the traffic off River Road. Plus, the lots will have one more year to grow grass on."
Another problem was some slow play, caused partially by the course's hilly terrain.
"We in the PGA Tour have to provide some added walkways, bridges and sets of steps to cut down the time it takes to play," Brundred said. "You try to think of all the little things, but you can't get them all until the players come and tell you. But, overall, we were tickled to death by the last two days."
What didn't tickle the players was the ninth hole. With an extremely elevated tee and a long, thin green, it was treacherous.
Greg Norman, the last Kemper winner at Congressional and a man who still prefers the old course, had trouble there all week and suggested that explosives were the only recourse. His threesome had two double bogeys and a triple bogey there Sunday.
"The Tour will be under a lot of pressure to change the ninth green," Brundred said. "So there might be changes there. Personally, I kind of like it. But the players don't like being embarrassed by triple bogeys."