Probably, assuming they can find a sponsor. Given that there’s already an extensive volunteer organization in place, along with an experienced management team and a proven fan base DC is likely a better candidate than the other towns being considered.
On the other hand, we’re talking about the weekend after the 4th of July. The weather around here is hot and humid; it is so uncomfortable that the Brits used to pay their embassy staff the same pay as those who were stationed in the tropics. It’s also prime vacation time, which means that the fan base, and the volunteer base, will be smaller. Of course, the best kept secret in Washington is that the there is no traffic in July and it’s the perfect time to go to the theater or that fabulous local restaurant, ’cause neither the tourists nor the Hill folks are in town.
OK, enough with the local knowledge. Who’ve you got in mind for a sponsor?
Doesn’t matter who I’ve got in mind, but there are plenty of good local candidates; my guess is that there’s a reasonably good list of national prospects in the Tour files, too. (If there isn’t, then somebody in Ponte Vedra should be polishing his or her resumé, because the job ain’t been getting done.)
The basic ingredients for a successful tournament are purse, course and date, then the management and volunteer organizations get layered on top. The three basic ingredients are a feedback loop: the Tour has to come up with a good venue and a good commitment for dates so they can attract a sponsor who’ll commit enough money to attract a good field for enough years to keep the sponsor’s (and the sponsor’s customers’) interest.
If the sponsor turns out to be a local company who is in any way connected to the local industry you can be sure the long term spot on the Tour schedule will not be while Congress is in recess. At least, not if those doing the negotiating for the sponsor have a clue about what they’re doing.
Where will they play this thing?
My money’s on Congressional for 2007, since they’ve already been approached and they’ve already agreed to host it, if you believe what you read in the papers. In this case, I do.
Why there and not Avenel?
Avenel is still a fan friendly course that the veteran players almost universally intensely dislike. See this post. Plus, if the Tour has its way the place’ll be ripe with large pieces of earth moving equipment come the middle of summer.
So will Congressional host it after this year?
Most likely not. Congo (as it’s affectionately known around here) is hosting the US Amateur in 2009 and the Open in 2011, and I imagine they’ll want to take 2008 off to make sure the course is ready. In fact, they’ll probably need to take ‘08 off, especially if an ‘08 Tour stop in DC is also in July. July is peak disease month for creeping bent grasses around here, and guess what the Congo has on its tees and fairways?
So is Congressional the only likely spot for a Tour stop other than Avenel?
Pretty much, at least if one makes a couple of assumptions. First, let’s rule out Baltimore. Great courses up there, but when the Booz folded, the talk wasn’t that the Tour would be out of the Baltimore-Washington market for the first time in 20-some years, was it? Second, let’s rule out RTJ. They don’t want a regular Tour stop. They want majors, or near majors, because they see themselves as being in the same league as Congo, Caves Valley etc., not the TPC at Avenel. And they’re right.
Are there other courses that are ‘big’ enough to handle Tour-caliber players? Sure there are: the Norman course at Lansdowne that I wrote about here, for one. But it is not without problems. Putting on a Tour event takes more than a big course; you also need to be able to handle big crowds, and handle the logistics to support both those crowds and the big circus that follows the tour. And one issue at Avenel, that all the course and clubhouse renovation in the world can’t fix, is the crowd logistics. It is just a flat out mess; for example, the nearest fan parking that can be relied on in bad weather is 20 miles away. Another glaring problem is player/caddy/player family/player entourage accommodations, which are not anywhere nearby; these folks don’t usually stay at the Red Roof Inn. These problems are made worse,not better, by moving to Leesburg. And the course in Leesburg isn’t likely to be appreciably better than the new course at Avenel, the protestations of its famous player-architect notwithstanding.
And let’s not forget the bottom line, literally. Avenel is a big moneymaker for the Tour. Not the tournament itself, but the year-round operation. They don’t want to mess that up, so I think they’ll find a way to get a tournament back there, warts and all.
When will Avenel be ready to host a Tour event again?
Frankly, I haven’t been by there since last summer, so I don’t know if the renovation has started or not. Let’s assume it has not, and that they get the course work done over the summer. (That’s not a slam dunk, by the way. Permitting in Montgomery County is never something that can be taken for granted.) They can in theory get the seeding and sodding done in late August and have a good grow-in before December. In my never humble opinion, there is no way it would in be ready for a Tour stop in 2008. 2009, sure, but not after only 6 months. Now, if they were to sod the entire course, and if the event were in July, 2008, they probably could host it in passable fashion. But if that happens, watch for lots of articles harkening back to the opening days of Avenel, when nearly everyone agreed that they held the old Kemper there at least one year too early. And that doesn’t even address the clubhouse and other building issues at Avenel, which are in just as desparate need of renovation to support an upgraded event as the course is.