Golf Fans in Washington DC Get Screwed by PGA Tour
The PGA Tour & its Commissioner Tim Finchem have no conscience and should be ashamed of themselves. Never will they be able to justify what they have done to the loyal golf fans living in and around Washington, DC.
Let’s start with a little history. After 11 years in Charlotte, NC the Kemper (insurance) Open was brought to the Washington area in 1980, primarily by then-Commissioner Deane Beman who knew that big-time golf would flourish in his hometown. And flourish, it did as the crowds were enormous. The first seven Kempers were contested on one of America’s great venues, Congressional CC and the best players in the game flocked to the tournament. That very first year, a 50 year-old Arnold Palmer played and it was exciting to be in Arnie’s Army. Jack Nicklaus made it the following year only to be clipped at the end by the young Walrus, Craig Stadler, in the first of his back-to-back wins. Fred Couples got his first PGA tour win here and Greg Norman followed suit the following year in the first of his 2 Congressional wins. Everything was fabulous until a TPC course was built nearby at Avenel and the tournament was moved virtually across the street. Problems ensued.
Tom Kite won the first Kemper Open on a course that was probably not yet in good enough condition to hold a PGA Tour event. On top of that, the green on the 9th hole was a little too severe, causing many double bogeys and defending champion Greg Norman to declare that they should blow it up. (When was the last time you heard a Tour pro say something like that?) The bad vibes from that very first tournament at the new course never completely died down and big name players were skeptical about playing there, unless the schedule worked out that the tournament was contested the week before the US Open. Then they would come in an effort to be sharp for the following week’s major championship. So occasionally we would see the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love, Adam Scott, Couples and Norman. But regardless of the field, the crowds always came out.
The course itself is rather pedestrian by normal PGA Tour standards and certainly in comparison to stately Congressional. But there are some really good holes, both for play and spectating. The risk-reward par 5 6th hole would remind one of an inverted 13th hole at Augusta. The afore-mentioned 9th is a thrilling downhill par 3 with a creek in front of and snaking around the right side of the green. The 12th hole is perennially one of the toughest holes on Tour and the 18th is a tough amphitheater par 4 where many a tournament has been decided in front of tens of thousands of fans. On the down side, the first five holes of the back nine are not ideal for large crowds, being a little too pinched for easy spectator movement.
With the new schedule set for 2007 that pulls summer PGA Tour staples Barclays in Westchester, NY & Western Open in Chicago and puts them in September, new Washington DC sponsor Booz Allen asked for a solid date prior to the US Open to enhance the quality of the fields. And the Tour told them no. So Booz Allen realized that this Tour stop was being relegated to 2nd tier status and dropped its sponsorship. Now it appears that the best this golf-crazy area can do is get an after-the-Tour-Championship tournament sometime in the Fall when all the big names will be taking time off. How sad is that to be treated as an afterthought following 27 years of faithful attendance? How appropriate that the tournament that wanted to stay took 6 days to complete. R.I.P.
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I once played Eagle Trace and recall it was a good, tough track. Funny, but both Avenel & Eagle Trace were 2 of the 4 courses on the original PGA Tour Super Nintendo game.
It seems that in these days where everyone talks about the boring homogenization of the tour and the sameness of all the events, the tour want's more of the same and less variety. It's evidently all about the money.
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