- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

The PGA Tour officially extended a withered olive branch to Beltway golf fans yesterday, announcing the inception of the Melwood Open, a Nationwide Tour event that will debut next May at the Country Club of Woodmore in Mitchellville.

Given the timing of the announcement, which comes just three months after PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem pulled the plug on the Booz Allen Classic, it’s difficult to view the move as anything other than a consolation prize, a minor apology for the major PR debacle surrounding Finchem’s dismissal of Washington’s 27-year tour stop.

But negotiations between the PGA’s secondary tour, Melwood, Woodmore and representatives from Prince George’s County began nearly a year ago. And Nationwide Tour chief of operations Bill Calfee said yesterday there was no cause-and-effect link between the two events.

“I can understand why people might think that, but we were holding conversations [at Woodmore] long before any decisions were made about the event at TPC at Avenel,” Calfee said. “The two sets of circumstances and tournaments were totally mutually exclusive. We have a half dozen or so major markets, which successfully host PGA and Nationwide Tour events, or PGA and Champions Tour events, so that was never part of the equation.

“In fact, I fully expect Washington to get back on the PGA Tour schedule in the near future with both events successfully coexisting.”

Woodmore and Melwood certainly would seem like a solid formula for is success. Woodmore, a 7,049-yard, par-72 course designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay in 1981, was ranked by Golf Digest last year as one of the top 10 tracks in Maryland.

And Melwood, headquartered in Upper Marlboro since 1963, is one of Prince George’s County’s most laudable organizations. Perhaps best known to the public for their car-donation ads, Melwood is a non-profit organization that provides job and life-skills training for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“We are the contractual sponsor, which means we pay the bills whether we make money or not, but we’re confident the event is going to be hugely successful,” said Earl Copus, the longtime president and CEO of Melwood, which signed a five-year contract with the Nationwide Tour to host the event. “We’re excited to expose more people to what we do, which is basically trying to economically and socially empower our folks through training and support.”

Melwood will be receiving a substantial boost in its sponsorship from the state and county, which have committed a combined $250,000 to the tournament offering a $600,000 total purse. Tournament officials are expecting 30,000 spectators for next year’s inaugural event, which is scheduled opposite the PGA Tour’s Colonial Invitational (May 21-27).

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