- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Washington area’s lone PGA Tour event again will be seeking a new sponsor.

McLean-based consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton said it will not renew a three-year contract to sponsor the golf tournament after this year, citing concern over the PGA Tour’s plans to move the event to a lower-profile autumn date.

The decision has left event organizers scrambling to find a new sponsor for the third time since 2002, solidifying the tournament’s status as one of the least recognized stops on the tour.

“The PGA Tour surprised us by announcing a major overhaul of its calendar, which included moving the 26-year-old Washington tournament to the fall,” Booz Allen chairman Ralph Shrader said in a memo to his company yesterday. “This new development materially affects our ability to achieve our goals for the community, charity and the firm.”

In January, the tour said it would move the event in 2007 to as late as October, after the major championships. The event also would follow the four FedEx Cup Championship Series events, which are making their debut that fall.

“I guess it did not meet their business objectives,” PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said. “This is not a surprise. Booz Allen was direct with us.”

The tournament, normally held at the Players Club at Avenel in Potomac, historically has struggled to attract strong fields, in part because Avenel is one of the most criticized courses on tour. Most of the top golfers skip the event.

Last year’s Booz Allen Classic, won by Sergio Garcia, was held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda and had one of the strongest fields in years because of the change in venue. Eight of the world’s top nine players used the tournament as a warmup for the U.S. Open. This year’s tournament will be held at Avenel from June 22 to 25, the week after the U.S. Open.

Combs said Avenel will continue to play host to the tournament and that the tour is working to obtain permits for a massive renovation of the course and clubhouse.

Booz Allen took over sponsorship in 2004. In 2003, the tournament was known as the FBR Capital Open after local investment bank Friedman, Billings and Ramsey took over the vacant title sponsorship spot at the last minute. Before that, the tournament was known as the Kemper Open.

Combs said the tour already has talked with several potential sponsors who would be asked to sign a multiyear deal. Though it will not stay on as a title sponsor, Booz Allen said it will pledge $1 million to support the event and its charitable goals as a secondary sponsor.

“I want to thank Ralph Shrader and the employees of Booz Allen Hamilton for their dedication to the success of the tournament and for all the benefits they have provided to the people and communities involved with the classic,” said Marty Russo, chairman of Washington Golf Charities, the host of the tournament. “Over the past three years, the company has helped launch a ‘new era’ for this event.”

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