Tiger Valley?

The Baltimore Sun

Tiger Woods and Caves Valley surfaced in the same news story again recently. Twice.

Maybe this wasn't some silly pipe dream after all, some provincial stab at soaking up some of Tiger's glory for this area.

Last July, Woods rode out of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area on a wave of adoration after his inaugural AT&T; National tournament. At that time, it was suggested in this space that when his commitment to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda runs out after the 2008 event, he and his people should consider taking it to Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills.

So Baltimore could benefit, as D.C. did, from his presence, his influence, his generosity, his money and ... well, so it could soak up some of his glory. Why sugarcoat it?

For what it was worth at the time, nobody connected with the tournament, Woods' charitable foundation or Caves Valley said it couldn't or wouldn't happen. One significant factor has changed since then: The National agreed last month to return to Congressional for one extra year, in 2009. Then it becomes a free agent, because Congressional won't be available for two summers as it prepares to host the 2011 U.S. Open.

No market or course has taken Tiger's tourney off the market yet.

Within the past two weeks, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post reported that Aronimink Golf Club in the suburbs of Philadelphia is on a "short list" of potential homes for the event in 2010 and 2011. Aronimink is as historic as a course in the United States can get, dating to the late 19th century. Its original designer was Donald Ross, one of the pre-eminent course designers of the first half of the 20th century; the architect of its current design is Tom Fazio, among the best in the business today - and, coincidentally, the designer of the Caves Valley course.

Aronimink hosted the PGA Championship in 1962, was scheduled to host the 1993 PGA until it was forced to give it up over its membership policies - which have since been rectified - and was the site of the 2003 Senior PGA Championship.

The club, the Inquirer reported, was visited by representatives of Tiger's tournament last year. It's working toward lengthening the layout to fit the tournament's needs. And by all indications, it can handle the throngs the National drew at Congressional last summer and will surely draw the next two summers.

So it's not as if the Caves Valley folks - who, by the way, have dealt with a major before, the 2002 U.S. Senior Open - would be losing the National to some municipal course. There's no shame in possibly being passed over in favor of Aronimink or the other suggested sites, the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac - known in general as not one of Woods' favorite courses - and Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Northern Virginia.

On the other hand, it was reported that officials at Congressional itself are nudging Tiger's people to keep the event in the area. The response, by Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation and National tournament director? "Without question, the foundation is committed to the Washington, D.C., area," McLaughlin told the Post. "We've committed to growing our golf tournament and our foundation in the Washington community. This has never wavered in our long-term plans."

(The Woods Foundation had no comment on the tournament's site beyond this year, and Caves Valley did not return calls for this column.)

Much as the D.C. haters in the audience are loath to admit it, this area is part of that area. It's a shorter commute from BWI Marshall Airport to Caves Valley than to Congressional, Avenel and Robert Trent Jones, if nothing else.

The competition is pretty much laid out there for everybody to see. If its low-key, away-from-the-spotlight approach is any sign, Caves Valley is in the running. At worst, it hasn't taken itself out of the running.

Either way, it's fantastic news, in a non-news way.

The first edition of the AT&T; National Hosted by Tiger Woods packed such an athletic, promotional, charitable and cultural punch, it almost can't be overstated. The D.C. area and the golf world were beyond buzzing that whole week, as well as the weeks before and after.

The event did well, and it did good. Washington deserved that. Philly, to be honest, deserves it.

Baltimore deserves it, too. Let's hope that the parties come together, make it happen and bring that buzz and that punch up the road to here.


Listen to David Steele on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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