Tournament officials announced Monday that the national investment bankers Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc., based in the capital area, has become primary sponsor of the tournament, scheduled for June 2-8.
As the Kemper Open, the tournament was the largest single sporting event in the Washington area, attracting more than 180,000 fans annually. Having generated more than $7-million for more than 150 local and national charities, it also was the largest individual charitable sporting event in town.
Last year was the 36th annual Kemper, which officials said gave the tournament the longest continuous sponsorship on the PGA Tour.
Like the Kemper, the FBR Capital Open will be at Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac, Md., a Washington suburb. Avenel has held the PGA Tour stop since 1987.
'FBR is both honored and pleased to become the title sponsor for what is perhaps the premier sporting event in this nation's capital,' said Eric Billings, co-chairman and co-chief executive of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group.
'This golf classic represents the best in competitive spirit, sporting excellence and unbridled integrity,' he said. 'In addition, we feel it imperative that the event continue to benefit its numerous associated charities within the Washington community.'
It is a storied series.
Arnold Palmer eclipsed the million-dollar mark by winning the inaugural Kemper Open, in 1968, at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass. From 1969 through '79, the tournament was contested at Quill Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., before moving to suburban Washington. The Kemper was at Bethesda's Congressional Country Club from 1979 through 1986 before moving around the corner to Avenel.
Defending champion Bob Estes, whose Kemper win was his fourth tour victory, said he's not familiar with the new sponsors but said he doesn't expect and differences this year as he defends. 'I've never really considered it extra pressure coming back as defending champion. Sometimes your game's there, and sometimes it's not.'
'The course there at Avenel is really good for me,' Estes said. 'Last year, that course played harder and harder as the week went along. It was like a U.S. Open setup.'
Steve Lesnik, who heads Chicago-based KemperSports, which is not affiliated with the insurance company, said his group has a one-year commitment to operate the tournament with FBR as the title sponsor. He said he would like to see the tournament rotate around the capital region in coming years.
'We're talking about possibly rotating the event among a number of venues in the Washington area,' Lesnik said. 'The only one that we have named is Congressional, and we have had preliminary discussions with members of the board.'
He said sites on the Virginia side of Washington are under consideration as well. own as a possibility,' Lesnik said. 'The only course we've mentioned publicly is Lansdowne,' northwest of Washington near Leesburg, Va. Lesnik said the tournament would have continued after Kemper even without a sponsor, 'but it probably would not have had the same vitality and strength that it's going to have' with FBR.
'Obviously, there's only one capital of the United States of America, so this is a unique venue,' he said. 'This change may create some new excitement, give this event a shot in the arm. There's a lot of electricity associated with change, and this is the dawn of a new era.'
On television, ABC will air the tournament instead of CBS, which had televised the event since its inception.
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