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Captial Open may move to Congressional

Congressional Country Club in Bethesda appears willing to offer its famous facility as a site for one year for the Capital Open, probably in 2005. Such an offer might help the tournament attract a title sponsor to replace Kemper Insurance Cos. of Chicago, which withdrew two weeks ago for economic reasons.

"Six months ago our board talked about the possibility that we might hold the Kemper Open in '05. The feeling was definitely favorable," Congressional President Ben Brundred Jr. said yesterday. "Since Kemper pulled out [this month], that's been on hold. But there are a number of very sensible reasons to hold the Capital Open here for a year."

Congressional's national prestige could assist the local PGA Tour stop in finding a new title sponsor willing to pick up the annual $5 million cost that Kemper previously bore.

"Congressional expressing an interest is good news, definitely a positive development," said Ed Moorhouse, executive vice president of the PGA Tour. "It would certainly only help us in finding a sponsor."

Congressional hosted the first seven Kemper Opens in Washington from 1980 through 1986, when construction was completed on the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac, where the event has been played for the last 16 years. This week, Congressional was named to host the final qualifier for the British Open on the Monday after the '04 Capital Open.

According to sources, the Capital Open may be fairly close to a title sponsor deal with a computer company with Washington area ties. Getting Congressional to host, especially in 2005, would solve several problems for a potential sponsor.

"We could help juice the tournament up for that one year," Brundred said. "There are [top] players who would like to play on an Open venue like Congressional the week before the '05 Open at Pinehurst."

The TPC at Avenel also might need an off year so it can rebuild its greens -- a normal occurrence after they get "compacted" over a 10- to 20-year period. Also, if the PGA Tour, which owns Avenel, authorizes the funds, work could be done to improve the clubhouse. Such factors also might help complete a sponsorship deal.

Congressional also has extended a bid to the United States Golf Association to host the 2008 U.S. Amateur and hopes to find out in June whether it will get to host the U.S. Open again in '11 or '12.

 

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