Ralph Shrader has played golf for only seven years, but the chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton knows exactly the kind of tournament he would like his global strategy and technology consulting company to be associated with as it takes over title sponsorship of Washington's PGA Tour stop this year.
"Booz Allen will never be involved with something that is mediocre," Shrader said earlier this week, adding he has had conversations with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem about securing a better place on the late-spring, early-summer schedule that will ensure the biggest names in golf will play in the $4.8 million event.
Shrader admitted in an interview he was somewhat frustrated by the dearth of high-profile players the tournament will draw for its June 24-27 dates, a week after the U.S. Open. John Daly, who still hasn't committed, may be the biggest draw, though efforts are still being made to convince Masters champion Phil Mickelson to play.
"We've tried very hard to get the big names, but given the date, it's been a tough nut to crack," Shrader said. "Despite all our efforts, it hasn't yielded the outcome we thought. I've learned it's a tough market out there."
But he said he has also learned after years of attending the Kemper Open that "if we can't provide big media names, we can provide great golf. We have a lot of players coming this year who have already won. We always get good young players who are in the process of making their mark, and we've got a lot of guys in the field playing their best golf right now."
Shrader's company, with 9,000 of its 14,000 employees in the Washington area, has made some significant improvements, with the pledge of more than $1 million to local charities, including 14 grants of $50,000 each to some of the area's finest causes. Booz Allen initially has signed a three-year agreement to run the tournament, though Shrader indicated he believes his firm will be in it for the much longer haul.
"My own co-workers and my family still talk about the Kemper Open," he said. "The good news is that the previous organizations have done a lot to establish this golf tournament in the community. . . . The key is not to divorce yourself from it. The key is how do you leverage this success? We're moving from an Open to a Classic. If we do well, the Booz Allen Classic will be established, and people will talk about The Classic."
Sorenstam Aims for 3 in Row
Annika Sorenstam demonstrated last week in Rochester, N.Y., why she's still the best player of her gender, and generation. She showed up at the Corning event Wednesday night, never played a practice round and still won the tournament.
This week, she'll try to win a single event -- the Kellogg-Keebler Classic in Illinois -- for the third straight time. She has won three other LPGA tournaments three straight times, a feat accomplished by only five other women.
Last year in the same event, Sorenstam showed up the week after her appearance at Colonial. Considering the draining drama of her two rounds in Fort Worth, few would have blamed her if she missed the cut at the Kellogg. Instead, in the first round, she shot 62, the lowest first round in LPGA history by a tournament champion. She won it by three shots.
No Looking Back
Don't look for Tiger Woods to reconcile any time soon, if ever, with his old coach, Butch Harmon, the man who instructed him for his three straight U.S. Amateur titles and eight major championship victories. Harmon, for one, doesn't seem that interested.
"I have no desire to go back to the same situation where I spend all my time at tournaments with Tiger Woods," Harmon told Golfweek magazine. "If he wants to come here [to Las Vegas, where Harmon is based], that's fine. I sat in that hot seat for 10 years, and now someone else can sit in it.
"Tiger decided on doing this his way and doing it alone. I think he felt he got to a point in his life where he didn't need the help of an individual. Who's to say he's wrong?"
Harmon's advice for his former star pupil?
"If it was me," he said, "I'd break out films of 2000. It's pretty good."
Drummond Gets Helping Hand
Talk about coming out of nowhere: Scott Drummond, a 30-year-old journeyman previously ranked 435th in the world, claimed the Volvo PGA Championship on the European tour Sunday at Wentworth in England, winning by two shots over Angel Cabrera in a field that also included No. 2 in the world Vijay Singh and No. 3 Ernie Els.
He also had a heartwarming story. Drummond's 70-year-old father, George, a plumber by trade, was a scratch golfer at St. Andrews. But injuries incurred on the job 20 years ago, including crushed vertebrae in his back and neck, forced him to give up the game. He also won about $175,000 in a lawsuit over his work-related disabilities, and his son said a lot of that money was spent on helping him pursue his own career.
"Financially it has always been very difficult," Drummond said after he had earned close to $1 million with his victory. "I've been lucky, because my dad has always supported me all the way and made funds available. I don't know how he's done it, really, but he always kept me going."