The AT&T National golf tournament has helped pump millions of dollars into local hotels, restaurants and shops since the annual event began at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club in 2007.
But some members of the 90-year-old private club — whose past members have included Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford and business tycoons John D. Rockefeller and William Randolph Hearst — are not sold on the tournament. They have not appreciated that it cuts into their playing time and use of other facilities, such as swimming pools and a tennis club, for several weeks each summer.
Members pay $100,000 or more in initiation fees alone.
As the tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, is in the last year of its contract at Congressional, members are voting through March 31 on a compromise proposal: The event could be played there in 2016, 2018 and 2020 and move to an unspecified venue in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Montgomery County officials hope the event can continue at Congressional and perhaps another local course in alternate years.
“We made it clear that we want to continue to do this tournament,” said Steven A. Silverman, director of the county’s Department of Economic Development. “But, ultimately, the membership will decide if they want to continue doing it.”
The Tiger Woods Foundation “worked with the board and membership at Congressional Country Club to find a contract extension that works best for the club,” Gregory McLaughlin, foundation president and CEO, said in a statement. “If they approve the current proposal, we are evaluating a variety of local and regional alternatives for the other years.”
One other Montgomery possibility is TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, Silverman said. The course, formerly called TPC Avenel, was a regular stop on the PGA Tour for more than a decade and last hosted the Booz Allen Classic in 2006.
The Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia is another possibility for Woods’ tournament. The AT&T National moved there in 2010 and 2011 while Congressional prepared for and hosted the 2011 U.S. Open.
Kelly Groff, president and CEO of the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County, said she could live with having the event in alternate years. But a decision would be helpful as early as possible, she said.
“Advanced notice can really help us in promoting the event,” Groff said.
Joanne Rashbaum — who has volunteered during the golf tournament since it started at Congressional in 2007, except for the years the event was at Aronimink — said she hoped the event could remain in the area. “I plan to volunteer again this year.”
Quicken Loans of Detroit could become the next title sponsor of the tournament, according to an Associated Press report. The company is title sponsor of NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Michigan and Phoenix this year.
Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, is the chairman and founder of Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender. Last year, the company closed a record $80 billion worth of home loans, up from about $70 billion in 2012 and $30 billion in 2011.
AT&T of Dallas did not plan to renew its title sponsorship of the Congressional tournament after its contract ends this year, according to the AP report.
Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, declined to comment on the sponsorship.
Emily Taylor, a spokeswoman for Woods’ foundation, said the organization had “nothing to announce” yet about a potential new title sponsor.
This year’s tournament is slated for June 23-29.
Woods won the event in 2009 and 2012. Last year, Woods pulled out due to an injury, and former Wake Forest All-American Bill Haas won the tournament.
The 2009 event saw its highest weeklong attendance, with about 194,000 spectators, and generated an estimated $29.1 million in direct and indirect spending in the county, according to a study commissioned by the county’s economic development department.
McLaughlin is in the process of leaving after 14 years of leading the foundation to take an executive position with the PGA Tour. A national search is underway for a new CEO, and McLaughlin is assisting with the transition, Taylor said.
“I’ve been close with Tiger and his family for more than 20 years,” McLaughlin said. “Although I will remain involved with the Tiger Woods Foundation, I am looking forward to joining the PGA Tour and expanding on my 25 years in golf.”