Early last year, I wrote about the woes golf fans in Washington were experiencing regarding the status of its PGA Tour tournament. Commissioner Tim Finchem, after revamping the men’s tour, a move that made way for a season-long competition for the $10M FedEx Cup, had placed Washington's Booz Allen Classic in his holding tank. All signs pointed to the area losing the tournament, a late May, early June staple on the Tour since 1980. Coupled with losing The Presidents Cup, the prestigious event held here the first four times, top-notched, men's golf spectating in Washington appeared to have been reduced to the occasional U.S. Open at Congressional.
Then, after a year of limbo, something quite remarkable happened. This past February, in a move that had been kept secret, Tiger Woods and the Commissioner announced a new tournament would be held in Washington. The AT&T National, the official name to what’s getting to be known as “Tiger’s Tournament,” will be held in the first week of July at Congressional and serves several purposes. Funds raised will help youth development programs such as The First Tee. A second Tiger Woods Learning Center, a D.C. counterpart to the one in Anaheim, will be built. Throughout the tournament, and especially during the Pro-Am, our Armed Forces will be honored and entertained.
The short amount of time to get ready meant the field for the first year would be uncertain. When my wife and I bought our tickets last week, even the host himself, had yet to give the official nod. Then this past Thursday, one week before the pros tee it up, it all came together. Golf fans got the good word from both Tiger and Phil Mickelson. Along with Jim Furyk, Scott Adams and Vijay Singh, the field will include five of the six top ranked players in the world.
Ticket prices are lower than what I and some other folks I talked to had anticipated. $20 for weekday and $25 for weekend. 30,000 free admissions will be given to active duty military. At the Pro-Am on the Fourth, named in honor of his Dad Earl Woods, Tiger plans to tee it up with a selected active duty member. 52 non-uniformed service members will caddie. Wounded soldiers will be special guests. Wood’s fellow pros will put on clinics and give free lessons at nearby Fort Belvoir. Fans using the shuttle buses to the tournament can write messages to be given to the troops stationed world-wide.
We hear a lot of cynicism when it comes to professional athletes. The good they do sometimes gets questioned or overlooked. In this case, you can even wonder about the politics involved. But whether you hit it left or right (I do a lot of both), this will be a unique tournament that holds the promise to do a lot of good.
Tiger - thank you!!