When Deane Beman, former commissioner of golf, acquired the land for the Tournament Players Club at Avenel, he said, "This is the greatest parcel of land left on the East Coast to build a world-class golf course." A Washingtonian, Beman touted the chance to create a course that might someday rival its neighbor, Congressional. He played down the fancy political and real estate footwork that allowed the PGA Tour to buy the entire property for $1. Beman talked aesthetics while his Tour counted the cash.
Before any earth was moved, architectural consultant Ed Sneed drove around the property in a cart explaining how Avenel would be his homage to Augusta National and the design ideas of Bobby Jones. There'd be natural amphitheaters on every hole: a spectator's paradise. The sixth hole at Avenel would be a mirror image of the 13th hole at the Masters. What a sylvan idyll.
And don't forget, the Tour was going to take the 6th hole and make it a long par-4 (in the redo-that-probably-won't-happen-now).
Wonder if the Tour would do the same to No. 13 at Augusta? Changing it to a two-shotter would cut down on those dreadful birdies and eagles!
For the last 20 years, the Tour has proved it would always suck the last buck out of the enthusiastic Washington golf public rather than put one extra cent back into the Avenel complex. Every time fans endured quagmire parking lots, or were stuck in traffic for hours, the Tour promised remedies. But it never did anything -- except pray it would never rain again in Washington in June.
And he's just warming up.
The PGA Tour may be technically "nonprofit" in its financial structure, because it has a charity component, but its true purpose is to maximize the income of its members -- the pro tour players. When the Tour first came to Washington in 1980, the 125th man on the money list made $20,000. By last year, the 125th man made $627,000. Not bad for charity work.
As recently as last week, sponsors of the Booz Allen Classic still thought they were in good-faith negotiations with the Tour. If pro golf would invest $25 million in its substandard Avenel factory, then Booz Allen would make a six-year commitment (with a value of more than $40 million in purses and ad time) to remain the sponsor of the Washington event through 2013.
This is what Washington gets for supporting the PGA Tour for the last 26 years -- with about 2 million tickets sold, often at rip-off prices in comparison to the weak quality of the fields. This is what Washingtonians get for giving far more than a million hours of volunteer work to the Tour. In a typical summer, 1,500 golf lovers give 50,000 free hours to make the Tour's event happen. This is what Washington gets for supporting the Presidents Cup in its infancy when nobody else wanted it very much. Now the event borders on being world-class. Don't bother to thank us local fans, volunteers or RTJ Golf Club.
And finally, here's the money graph:
"What happened last Friday is all about the money," said one of the key Washington golf figures who has supported the Avenel event throughout the years. "What astounds me is that the Tour doesn't understand how important Washington is to golf. A lot of decisions get made in this government that could impact a business that depends on a nonprofit structure."