Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tiger Woods yesterday announced that members of the military will receive 30,000 free tickets to the AT&T National golf tournament as part of an effort to honor them at the event to be held during the week of the Fourth of July.

Woods, the host of the inaugural tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, said recognizing men and women in uniform was something he felt personally motivated to do. He named the tournament’s pro-am event after his late father, Earl, a Vietnam veteran and Green Beret.

“It’s our nation’s birthday,” Woods said. “It can’t get any better than that. … I know what it’s like, my father being in the military, and I know the commitment that it takes. I have friends who are in the military, as well. I know the level of commitment that it takes, and I don’t think it can be any better than having all of the various men and women coming out and have it on this golf course. The package doesn’t get any better than that.”

The tournament will distribute 5,000 tickets to active-duty members of the military for each day of the event, which runs from July 3 to July 8. Those tickets will be made available beginning June 4 through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Office of the Pentagon. Members can contact their local branch to receive two complimentary tickets.

The AT&T National also is expected to offer a special VIP entrance for military members near Congressional’s 16th green, plus discounts on concessions. Other benefits will be announced in the next few weeks.

The new tournament, which will feature an invitation-only field of 120 golfers, marks the first time that a PGA Tour event has been played in Washington over the Fourth of July. The area was awarded the event after the cancellation of the Invitational tournament in Castle Rock, Colo., earlier this year. Woods, who had been looking for a tournament to host, agreed to attach his name to the event and designated the Tiger Woods Foundation as its main charitable beneficiary.

The significance of holding the tournament at Congressional was not lost on Woods, who considers the club’s “Blue” course one of his favorite golf tracks. Throughout its history, Congressional has boasted a distinguished membership that has included Presidents Wilson, Hoover and Eisenhower.

The course also has played host to major golf tournaments in the past — the U.S. Open was played at Congressional in 1964 and 1997 — and the U.S. Amateur Championship will be played at the club in 2009 and the U.S. Open in 2011.

“I went to D.C. first, and once you say D.C., you automatically think Congressional,” Woods said.

Tournament officials yesterday said that several of the world’s top-ranked golfers, including Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott, have committed to play in the tournament. However, Woods said yesterday that former major champions Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, who won the Open at Congressional in 1997, will not play in the event.

In addition to honoring servicemen and women, Woods plans to build a new learning center in the Washington area, similar to a center his foundation recently constructed in Southern California. Tiger Woods Foundation President Greg McLaughlin said the charity has a team looking for a site for the center inside the Capital Beltway.

“There [are] some really great sites,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Every site that came to us with an option and an opportunity to make it work. … It’s not always necessarily land or it’s not always necessarily a particular neighborhood. It’s really kind of everything coming together that fits the model that works for us.”

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