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Comeback Tour?

Tiger Woods bringing PGA back to D.C; Berliner urges PGA to make Avenel host of the yearly event.

The most recognizable figure in golf is coming to the D.C. area, and he’s bringing the PGA with him. The PGA and the Tiger Woods Foundation announced last week that the two entities have planned an annual PGA Tour event that will begin play in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area this summer.

The proposed event marks a return of the PGA Tour to the area, which announced the end of its annual tournament at Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac last year.

The PGA has not picked a location for the event yet. Ryan Myers, assistant golf professional at Congressional Country Club, said that the PGA approached Congressional about the possibility of hosting the event for the first two years. The club will decide on the matter in a members vote scheduled for March 14, Myers said.

Congressional was one of several area clubs that the PGA Tour approached, Myers said. The other clubs included Robert Trent Jones Golf Club and Lowes Island Club, both in Northern Virginia.

Roger Berliner (D-15) of the Montgomery County Council said that he believes the event is likely to be held at Congressional for the first two years, after which time it will need a permanent home. Congressional is to host the U.S. Amateur Open in 2009 and the 2012 U.S. Open, and Berliner said that the club’s members weren’t likely to approve giving up use of their club for two events in one year.

Berliner said that he hopes that will leave the door open for the PGA to return to TPC at Avenel.

“We don’t want to lose this to Northern Virginia,” Berliner said.

Kemper Sports Management, which operated the Booz Allen/Kemper Open for the PGA in previous years will not be involved in the Tiger Woods event.

“It is our understanding that [the PGA’s management company] will operate it themselves,” said Kemper Sports Management president Steve Lesnik.

Woods and PGA Tour President Tom Finchem are to announce more details of the event at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on March 7, after the Almanac’s press deadline.

THE PGA has already committed $25 million to renovate Avenel, which is owned by the PGA, Berliner said, but he hopes the PGA will take a hands-on approach to improving the course and the clubhouse.

In a letter last week to Finchem, Berliner urged the PGA Tour to consider Avenel as the long-term host for the event. Berliner asked Finchem, along with Woods, to review the site plans for Avenel’s renovation.

“I would ask that you review the current plans for upgrading Avenel and … amend them in a manner that will ensure that Avenel is the obvious and compelling choice as the permanent site for this tournament,” Berliner said in the letter. “TPC at Avenel in Potomac should be ‘the course Tiger built.’”

TPC at Avenel’s preliminary plans for renovation were filed with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission on Feb. 6, said Mike Sullivan, the general manager of TPC at Avenel. The club is waiting to hear the staff’s comments on the plans.

Berliner said that while getting the PGA’s direct input on the renovation plans could slow down the approval process, the long-term benefit of having a PGA event at Avenel would be immense.

“This type of event draws from a group of people that have dollars to spend … [so] let’s have them spend it with us” Berliner said. “What I want to do is [to be] consistent with our obligations to be good stewards of the environment and also to make sure the permitting process is as expeditious as possible.”

Once Avenel gets all of their approvals Sullivan said that renovation of the clubhouse will take nine or ten months while the new course will take twelve to fourteen months to complete.

Sullivan said that for now Avenel is focused on improving their facilities and not on luring the PGA’s newest event.

“It would be nice if it was here… [but] we’re not really focused on that right now,” said Sullivan. “Whatever’s going to happen with the event is going to happen.”