by Jim Buzzerd
No golf for Washington
This isn’t likely news to those of you who follow professional golf, but I missed the news that the Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament has left the area. Tiger Woods and his foundation saved golf in D.C. in 2007 when he brought the AT&T National to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.
When AT&T pulled their sponsorship in 2013 event organizers and Woods’ foundation were able to secure Quicken Loans as a title sponsor. The 2018 tournament at TPC Potomac at Avenel was the final year of the Quicken Loans event in the Washington area and I did not realize that until Monday.
During the tournament’s run I attended as a spectator several times and volunteered as a marshal and Shot Link operator three times. Monday I realized the D.C. tournament had not been played yet and went to the web to see what was up. My schedule hadn’t allowed me to volunteer for several years, so I thought maybe I could do so this year if the date was suitable. That’s when I saw that Quicken Loans had pulled the tournament out of the Washington area and moved it to Detroit under the name Rocket Mortgage Classic. This time no new sponsors could be lined up.
The beginning of the end of Washington hosting a PGA Tour event, something it has done since 1980, can be traced to Woods’ 2009 Thanksgiving “accident” which led to scandalous revelations of his personal life that tarnished Woods’ iconic status. Along the way Congressional’s membership lost interest in hosting the event on an annual basis, so the tournament moved across the street to Avenel on a rotating basis. Also, Woods well-documented injury issues kept him from participating in his own event many years.
Davis Love once said, “Avenel isn’t a bad course unless you have to drive by Congressional to get there.” That notion seemed to be a consensus among tour players as the field for the Avenel event more resembled a Web.com event than a PGA Tour stop. This led Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, to pull the plug on the D.C. tour stop and move the event to his home town of Detroit, which is also headquarters for Quicken Loans.
It’s difficult to gauge the possibility of a return of professional golf to Washington. Without Congressional as a venue and a title sponsor, the likelihood is slim for now. One thing seems clear, Washington won’t have much assistance from Woods or his foundation finding a sponsor this time around. His foundation is now the beneficiary of the annual PGA Tour event played at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles. The L.A. event has the kind of stability never established in Washington. It has been played at Riviera for 44 of the last 46 years, as opposed to the D.C. event that was held at four golf courses in 13 years, none for more than three consecutive years.