2004 Booz/Allen Classic Recap - Beginning of Something Great

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Jeffrey A. Rendall


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The Booz Allen Classic's Website

POTOMAC, MD – They said it was going to be different, and it was.

 

Starting with some sunny weather, there were many improvements at this year’s premier Washington DC area PGA Tour event, the inaugural Booz/Allen Classic.  Whereas last year’s tournament was plagued by a wave of monsoonal precipitation, the 2004 version enjoyed 3 ½ days of dry weather.  A seasonal thunderstorm washed out a few hours on Friday, but the important weekend rounds were bone-dry.


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Booz Allen Hamilton CEO Dr. Ralph Shrader presents the trophy to tournament winner Adam Scott.

 

Twenty-three year-old Australian Adam Scott took advantage of the favorable playing conditions, tying the tournament record by finishing 21-under par for the four rounds over the always challenging TPC Avenel layout.  Scott’s stellar weekend performance deprived the final round of much drama, though who can argue with watching a player win at the height of his game?

 

Runner-up Charles Howell III tried to make things interesting during Sunday’s back nine, firing five straight birdies to narrow Scott’s lead to two strokes, but a clutch birdie on the short par four 14th hole pretty much sealed the victory for the tall Australian.  Howell then bogeyed the par three 17th hole, making Scott’s three-putt bogey on 18 irrelevant.  He still finished four ahead of Howell and six in front of third place finisher (and last year’s winner) Rory Sabbatini.

 

Now that the ink’s dry on most of the post-tournament coverage, here are a few observations from the first annual Booz/Allen Classic:


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Adam Scott follows his first putt on the 18th green. There'd be two more putts after this one, but he still won by four.

 

There Should’ve Been More

 

As I walked the grounds on the weekend, enjoying the sunshine, moderate temperatures and relatively little humidity for this time of year, I couldn’t help but notice there were a lot more premium viewing spots on the ropes than there should’ve been.  Though there was definitely a sizeable crowd in attendance, it seems the Washington area masses read too much into the pre-tournament media reports of a ‘weak’ field of players at the Booz/Allen Classic, and decided to hit the beach instead.

 

Or perhaps fans had expended too much emotional energy on the previous week’s thrilling US Open up on Long Island and couldn’t stomach the thought of seeing some more exciting golf close up.


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2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel blasts out of a bunker on the par four 7th hole.

 

Whatever the reason, here’s hoping the Washington area golfing public gets behind this event in much larger numbers in the years to come.  With the departure two years ago of the Michelob Championship in Williamsburg, the DC/Baltimore region, along with its considerable sports/golf fan base, is left with one annual top-level professional men’s golf event, the Booz/Allen Classic.

 

In other words, there won’t be many opportunities for fans to see this degree of competition, and despite the fact that there wasn’t a long list of ‘name’ players in the field, I couldn’t help but think this year’s level of play was as good as any I’ve seen in the years I’ve covered the event.

 

True to predictions, the highest ranked player in the field, Adam Scott, won the tournament, and the second highest ranked player, Charles Howell III, finished second.  Their scores were excellent considering the fairly difficult conditions on the weekend – Avenel’s fairways might’ve been firm and fast, but there was also a steady wind to contend with.


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2003 runner-up Duffy Waldorf follows the flight of his second shot to the 7th hole. One thing's for sure -- with Waldorf's distinctive wardrobe, you never have trouble spotting him.

 

The players and tournament organizers deserved a larger turnout – for those who missed it, don’t make the same mistake next year.

 

Next Year Will Be Even Better

 

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2005, starting with a temporary change in venue.  TPC Avenel will undergo a facelift next year (and possibly in 2006, too), so the Booz/Allen Classic will move down the street to Congressional Country Club’s Blue Course, site of the 1997 US Open and several of the early Kemper Opens in the 1980’s.


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Adam Scott receives congratulations and a check for $864,000 from Washington Golf Charities' Chairman Marty Russo.

 

The move to Congressional provides a nice change of pace for a tournament that can probably use one, after two title sponsor switches in as many years.  TPC Avenel, when considering the golf course itself, is one of the better layouts in the Washington area.  But once you get outside the ropes, a good portion of the course feels like you’re watching a tournament weaving through someone’s backyard – those big houses sure are impressive, but it also deprives the course of a traditional, park-like environment.

 

In addition, the practice facilities aren’t what the pros are looking for, and the locker rooms and players’ areas aren’t up to today’s high standards for PGA Tour venues.

 

We haven’t heard exactly what’s going to be done to Avenel to change that (assuming it can be changed), but the move over to the more traditional setting at Congressional, if even for one year, will be very welcome.


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Always a good spot to watch the action, the short par three 9th hole is controversial as well as challenging.

 

Fans will probably have to put up with a few more logistical inconveniences (like lack of public parking), but the benefits clearly outweigh the negatives.

 

The players will certainly respond in kind.  Congressional drew much praise in ’97 after the US Open, and many of the game’s best will probably give deeper consideration to returning to a club steeped in tradition for the Booz/Allen Classic, with an excellent Robert Trent Jones designed course waiting for them (the course was upgraded by Rees Jones, RTJ’s son, prior to the ’97 event).

 

In addition, next year’s Booz/Allen Classic is scheduled for the week prior to the US Open (to be played at Pinehurst, North Carolina), so many of the players who decided to take this year off (after playing in the Open), will look to remain sharp by committing to the Booz/Allen Classic.


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2003 winner Rory Sabbatini again made a good showing at the Booz/Allen Classic, finishing in third place, six shots back.

 

In other words, many of the stars who were missing this year will probably be there in 2005.

 

What’s In A Name?

 

So the Golf Channel made a big deal out of the fact that only a handful of world top-50 players committed to play at Avenel this year – was it justified?  I’d say no.


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23 years-old and loads of talent, the sky's the limit for Adam Scott. He's quite popular with the ladies, too.

 

As you’re walking onto the Avenel property, you might pass the practice range – and usually there are a number of players either warming up, or tuning up their games for the next round.

 

Each player had a sign with his name printed in bold, and without it, you probably wouldn’t have recognized very many players.  The 2004 Booz/Allen field was largely made up of players you don’t see often on television leader boards or in commercials.  The networks don’t grant these players coverage unless they’re right in the thick of the respective tournament, and even then, if Tiger Woods is playing, he’ll get many a look, even if he’s ten shots out of the lead.

 

But take away those practice tee identification signs, and you’ll notice one thing that all these players have in common – they can flat out play.  You might have to strain to see the names on their bags to discover who they are, but once the ball’s teed up and launched, you’ll feel just as impressed by their level of play.  The slogan doesn’t lie – these guys are good.


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Rich Beem was amongst the leaders the first three days, but a final round 79 knocked him out of contention.

 

It’s true – America loves a star, and there’s no better place to try and gain a glimpse of some famous people than in Washington, DC.  But most of these players (the young ones, at least) must first learn how to play on Tour, handle pressure, and learn how to win.  Before they can be great, they must discover how to be good.

 

So I don’t buy the ‘weak field’ hype that surrounded the 2004 Booz/Allen Classic.  For anyone who really looked, they saw that there was plenty of good golf to see.  Adam Scott’s destined to be one of those ‘stars’ in the not-so-distant future, and I’m glad we got to see him in the days before the TV commercials, major titles and product endorsements.

 

Different Look, Different Feel


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A Booz/Allen Classic tradition, the Scottish bagpipes march down the 18th fairway to play for another champion.

 

As Kemper Sports Management CEO Steve Lesnik mentioned in the weeks leading up to the tournament, things would look, feel and smell different at the 2004 Booz/Allen Classic than in years past.

 

He was right.  There were grand archways to walk under, banners displaying the names of past champions, and the food was definitely better.  There was an aura of importance, an aura of tradition, a feeling that something significant was going on, rather than just watching some guys play golf at a private golf club.

 

A few things were the same – the folks partying in the corporate booths, a tipsy boisterous patron or two, and lots of serious golf fans following the leaders.

 

Lesnik and the Booz/Allen people (led by CEO Dr. Ralph Shrader), along with Washington Golf Charities (the tournament’s official host) are all committed to turning this into an annual first-class golf event for players and spectators.  If 2004 was any indication, they’re well on their way to achieving that goal.  A lot of its future success will depend on what will be done with Avenel, but the change in ‘attitude’ is certainly already in place.

 

Here’s to the future.  See you there.


Details:

The 2004 Booz/Allen Classic

TPC Avenel, June 24 – 27, 2004

 

Winner:  Adam Scott.  Score:  263.  Winner’s Share:  $864,000.


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E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor:
jrendall@golftheunitedstates.com