Baltimore C.C. readies for return of senior event

When the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship returns to Baltimore Country Club in 2011, the tournament could bring a few promotions from its one-year stop in the Washington suburbs.

This year's tournament at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm offered complimentary admission and a free concert by rock band Better Than Ezra, while charitable efforts helped generate $400,000 in donations.

Tournament officials balanced the free admission with the help of corporations willing to sponsor individual rounds. Constellation, Golf Galaxy, Telos Corp. and OMNITEC Solutions Inc. each bought the rights to specific days.

Steve Schoenfeld, the tournament's executive director, said his group will examine sponsorship possibilities for 2011 and did not rule out using the same fan-friendly format for the tournament's return to BCC.

"We certainly think we're headed in the right direction," Schoenfeld said. "We are challenged going up against the NFL on Sundays, and I think once people turn the calendar to October they're thinking football more so than golf. But we still feel pretty good about the event."

The tour is tentatively scheduled to return to Timonium Sept. 19-25, BCC general manager Michael Stott said. The date will not become official until the PGA completes its Champions Tour calendar, but Stott said his course will be ready after the one-year hiatus.

"We're hoping to build some Baltimore enthusiasm and build it back up for the final year," Stott said. "It's great for the local community. A major sports event is great for Baltimore. It's great for economic development, and it's great for exposure."

The tournament's contract with Constellation expires after the 2011 event, and Stacey Ullrich, Constellation's executive director of marketing and community outreach, said the company will not decide whether to renew its sponsorship until after next year's tournament.

Securing a title sponsor could ultimately determine the tournament's next stop. Before moving to BCC in 2007, the tournament spent 16 years at TPC Michigan in Dearborn and was sponsored by Ford Motor Co., which has its world headquarters nearby.

Schoenfeld said a sponsor's location plays a role in finding a home for the tournament, but it doesn't determine it.

"Based on any connection we would have, with Constellation or somebody else, they'll consider markets that are important to them and their business," Schoenfeld said. "With our title sponsor, we would make a decision of where we might go."

The move of the Constellation tournament to Potomac originated when Tiger Woods moved his AT&T; National tournament from Congressional Country Club in Bethesda to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., for two years while the U.S. Open occupies Congressional.

TPC Potomac general manager Mike Sullivan said he was pleased with this year's crowd and thought both the complimentary admission and the concert helped boost numbers.

"I think all that stuff adds a little bit to the experience," Sullivan said. "It was a pretty good group of folks that hung around on Saturday and participated in those activities. It was good."

Schoenfeld would not disclose specific attendance figures but indicated that this year's turnout, won by Mark O'Meara, surpassed 2009's at BCC, won by Jay Haas. Stott said a drop-off in attendance after the first year is not uncommon for stationary tournaments.

"Anytime a site has an event multiple years, attendance tends to wane," Stott said. "By the third year, the attendance was down from the first year, but the year off is going to give us the opportunity to build that enthusiasm up for one final event."

Even if the tournament is not in Baltimore for 2012, Stott is confident that his club will return to a national stage soon.

"We've always had a good relationship with the PGA tournament's governing bodies," Stott said. "They know that we're there and that BCC is around."

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