- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The folks at Booz Allen emerged from Tuesday’s meeting with the PGA Tour feeling considerably more comfortable about the future of the area’s local Tour stop.

“We had a very positive meeting with the Tour,” said Booz Allen chairman and CEO Ralph Shrader, who entered the meeting concerned about the delay in the renovation of long-term Booz Allen Classic venue TPC at Avenel.

“They clearly understand our interests,” Shrader said. “The Tour presented a plan for the TPC at Avenel that we believe, when implemented, will give us the kind of first-class venue we need in order to make the Booz Allen Classic a world-class event. I’m not only excited about the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, I’m very hopeful we’ll reach an agreement for the future.”

The PGA Tour’s presentation calls for renovations to Avenel to begin in the fall of 2006, meaning the tournament almost certainly would need an alternate site for the 2007 event. Congressional Country Club, which is playing host to next month’s event (June 9-12), is the obvious and most attractive option. But Shrader and tournament officials are reluctant to lean too heavily on the hospitality of the prestigious club, which also is slated to hold the 2009 U.S. Amateur and 2011 U.S. Open.

“You can’t keep putting the burden on Congressional,” said Shrader earlier this week when asked about the possibility of returning to the fabled club in the near future. “There is no question that given the opportunity to play a tournament at Congressional, which is the strongest possible venue in the area, it’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t take advantage of that. The real question is what is reasonable for all parties concerned, including Congressional. As we all know, staging a golf tournament at your country club is a tremendous inconvenience.”

For Congressional members, the overall experience provided by next month’s event is likely to weigh heavily in that decision. And given the stunning array of big names who already have committed to the tournament thanks to the lure of Old Blue and the coveted date (directly preceding the U.S. Open), this year’s Booz Allen Classic seems well on its way to sensational status.

“I can’t wait to get there, because it’s such a wonderful, traditional venue,” said world No. 4 Phil Mickelson yesterday. “It was a great move to have the Booz Allen go over to Congressional this year. I know we’re all excited because they’re going to have a great field and it’s a great tuneup for Pinehurst.”

Mickelson was an early commitment to the event and has been joined by all but one of the other top-20 players in the world, guaranteeing the Booz Allen one of the season’s strongest fields. Only No. 1 Tiger Woods, who never has played the week before a major, remains on the tournament’s wish list.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play it in 1997 [at the U.S. Open], because I was still an amateur,” said No. 8 Sergio Garcia, one of the latest commitments. “But I watched, and the course looks beautiful. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Congressional, and the field is going to be fantastic. There’s definitely already some buzz about that week out here.”

Tickets for next month’s tournament are available by calling the tournament office, 301/469-3737.

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