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Avenel Prepares for Classic

Burgers have given way to buffalo mozzarella. All charity is local. And the grass is greener in the on-site parking lots. These are several of the changes in store for spectators attending the Booz Allen Classic at TPC at Avenel this week.

Golf’s PGA Tour makes just one stop in the Washington, D.C. area. The title sponsor has changed for the third time in as many years, but for the 19th consecutive spring, Avenel hosts the event, which began on Monday, with PGA golfers teeing off on Thursday.

With Booz Allen Hamilton as the first-year title sponsor, spectators will see changes from the moment they approach the course, said Charlie Brotman, media director for the tournament.

Booz Allen has also made parking improvements, adding an access road, seeding the on-site fields and “aggressively” mowing and maintaining them in recent weeks, said Scott Abell, executive director of the tournament. Many lots were closed last year after heavy rains rendered the fields nearly impassable. Abell believes the groundskeeping improvements will facilitate parking, regardless of the weather during this year’s tournament. “We can handle a large percentage of our spectators on-site,” he said.

There are other options, though. As in previous years, a free shuttle will transport spectators between Avenel and Montgomery County Fairgrounds on Thursday and Friday, and Marriott Headquarters in Bethesda on Saturday and Sunday. Larger buses will be used this year, and twice as many of them. Booz Allen is providing additional parking at its McLean, Va. headquarters on Saturday and Sunday. Spectators entering Avenel will see banners with the names of previous event champions.

ON AVENEL GROUNDS, improvements include the Booz Allen Spectators Club, which overlooks the 17th tee and now features stadium seating, air conditioning and a hardwood floor.

The sights are enhanced, and so are the tastes — food by Wofgang Puck Catering and Events includes Cantonese-style roasted duck and Chinois chicken salad. “This is not the hot dog and hamburger food we’re all used to,” Brotman said.

The Booz Allen Classic features a field of 156 players with nine alternates. Tiger Woods has yet to make his first appearance at the tournament, which tees off a week after the U.S. Open.

“We may not be attracting the Tiger Woods of the world, but we have almost a dozen of the past champions that are coming,” said Brotman.

Twelve past winners of the Kemper Open/FBR Capital Open will return to Avenel this year, including Rich Beem (1999), Justin Leonard (1997) and defending event champion Rory Sabbatini. Lee Janzen, two-time U.S. Open winner, is also part of the field.

“It’s just a unique tournament and a chance to come out and see a PGA Tour event,” said Abell.

EACH PGA TOURNAMENT at Avenel proceeds with the help of more than 1,200 local volunteers. Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department will provide one or two ambulances and a medic unit on standby, said Eugene Roesser, spokesperson for the department.

Tournament officials are hoping to be spared of the rain that plagued Avenel for the 2003 and 2001 tournaments. But when the sun is out, spectators need to be prepared, Roesser said. “The biggest problem traditionally that we’ve run into is heat-related fatigue,” said Roesser. Humid temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and spectators are urged to bring bottled water to the event and to wear a hat.