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"Good Old Days" Are Now for Professional Golf in Baltimore

March 27, 2007

By Matt Hombach 

Suddenly, Maryland is a hotbed for professional golf tournaments. As recent as 2002, the situation seemed pretty dire for pro golf in this area. The PGA Tour event held under various names in the D.C. suburbs was losing momentum and the Champions Tour event in the Baltimore area was on life support with no title sponsor and in danger of leaving town.

Hale Irwin, Larry Nelson and Tom Watson could be teeing off at a green near you this summer.
(Constellation Energy Classic)
Fast forward to today and chances are, within about 50 miles of where you are sitting right now, no less than five pro tournaments will be played between May and October of this year. Amazingly, virtually every major professional tour will be hosting an event in the area.

It seems tournament organizers have finally taken note that there is a vastly underserved demand for professional golf events in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metro area.     
"Funky" New Nationwide Tour Event
PGA fan favorite Fred Funk recently accepted the invitation to serve as host for the area's first pro event of the year. The Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County Open will be held from May 24-27 at the Country Club of Woodmore in Mitchellville.

The tournament is named for and hosted by Melwood, an organization that serves more than 2,100 people with developmental disabilities throughout the Capital Region. Melwood will be the recipient of all proceeds of the event. 

"I'm delighted the State of Maryland is hosting the [Nationwide] Tour," said Funk, who formerly was golf coach at the University of Maryland. "I hope fans in the region will come out and see this event because they're going to see some great players who will be competing on the PGA Tour in the very, very near future."  

LPGA's Back at Bulle Rock
Bulle Rock will again play host to the greatest female golfers in the world at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, presented by Coca-Cola. This year's event runs June 7-10 in Havre de Grace. 

Bulle Rock has served as a grand stage for some tremendous action over the past few years and that shouldn't change in 2007. Se Ri Pak will be defending her title against a field of 149 other golfers, including Hall of Fame players Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster, along with a talented international field of players including Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Laura Davies and Michelle Wie. 
Tiger's AT&T National Roars Into Town
Even though Tiger Woods' AT&T National was showcased in an earlier column, it's definitely worth another mention to make the rundown of local professional tournaments in 2007 complete. While many details remain fluid, the event will be played July 5-8 at a golf course in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The most likely location will be the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

The biggest remaining detail in question is the size of the field. Woods and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem both are pushing for a reduced size and invitation-only field.  Many tour pros, including members of the tour's Player Advisory Council, disagree with this notion. They feel another invitational tournament on the schedule would rob rookies and other second tier pros of the chance to earn a paycheck and make it into the top 125 on the money list that would grant them coveted "exempt" status for the next season.   

Check out the Battle at Gettysburg
The Duramed Futures Tour's Gettysburg Championship, presented by Klein Builders Group, Inc. and Hanover Honda, will be contested Aug. 24-26 at The Links at Gettysburg. This event is technically not in the Baltimore area, but it is played less than 60 miles from downtown Charm City.

In women's professional golf, the Futures Tour is akin to the Nationwide Tour on the men's side. The top five on the money list at the end of the 19-event season gain exempt status the next year on the LPGA. 

Champions Tour is Back in a Big Way at BCC
After four successful Constellation Energy Classic tournaments at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley, Constellation Energy has partnered with the Champions Tour to step things up in 2007 with the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. The event is the late of five major championships on the Champions Tour.

This tournament will round out a great year of pro events in the mid-Atlantic when it is contested at Baltimore Country Club's Five Farms in Timonium (Oct. 4-7).

The Senior Players Championship moves to the Baltimore area after a highly successful run of 17 championships in Dearborn, MI. The 2006 Ford Senior Players Championship was played at the TPC Michigan and was won by Bobby Wadkins.

Issue 2.13: March 29, 2007