- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

The demise of one of golf’s most unique events could lead to the return of the PGA Tour to the Washington area.

PGA Tour officials are expected to announce today that it will drop the International, an event known for its peculiar scoring system, effective immediately. The cancellation opens a slot on the tour calendar July 5-8, and the Washington area is a leading candidate to fill it, a tour official told the Associated Press yesterday.

The official said the search was not limited to Washington and that Philadelphia, Kansas City and Minneapolis also are under consideration. The official said the decision would be based on the interest from prospective sponsors and which city would be the best fit at that time of year.

Washington is the largest U.S. market currently without a PGA Tour event. It has held an event each year since 1968, most recently at TPC at Avenel in Potomac. But the streak essentially died when sponsor Booz Allen Hamilton backed out last year, citing the tour’s decision to move the tournament to October, after the new FedEx Cup events.

The lack of a corporate sponsor also was mostly responsible for the canceling of the International, according to the PGA official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the decision had not formally been announced. Last year the tournament struggled to attract many top golfers because it took place after the PGA Championship. The tour agreed to move it to earlier in the summer, but organizers still failed to land a sponsor.

The International, held since 1986 at Castle Pines Golf Club near Denver, was known for its use of a modified Stableford scoring system, rewarding points for eagles and birdies and deducting points for bogeys or worse. Any replacement tournament likely would use a more traditional scoring method.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and tournament founder Jack Vickers were expected to make the tournament’s cancellation official this morning. They spent the last two weeks in a final effort to find a sponsor, then agreed to end it now. International spokeswoman Joanna Busack said Vickers would not comment until today, the AP reported.

The July 5-8 dates would be seen as an improvement over previous PGA Tour stops here. Last year’s Booz Allen Classic at Avenel was poorly attended by many of the top players because it took place the week after the U.S. Open.

Avenel is one possible candidate to play host to a new tournament, but it has long been an unpopular course among tour members, and plans for a massive overhaul of the course were halted after Booz Allen pulled out. Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, Va., the site of the President’s Cup four times, also could be a candidate, along with Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

Officials from KemperSports Management, which has organized PGA Tour events in D.C., did not return calls requesting comment last night. A spokesman for Booz Allen said he was not aware of any recent discussions involving the company and the PGA Tour.

An official announcement regarding a replacement for the International is expected by April.

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