Originally created 06/02/04

It's later and has a new name, but they still call it the Kemper



POTOMAC, Md. -- The tents are going up instead of coming down at the TPC at Avenel course. It's early June, and the PGA Tour's yearly visit is usually done by now.

Instead, the tournament long known as the Kemper Open is still four weekends away. Tuesday's annual media day, which normally would have featured the defending champion, instead focused on the event's new place on the calendar and its new name: the Booz Allen Classic.

But habits are hard to break - even for those close to the new sponsor.

"My own co-workers and my family talk about, 'Oh yeah, the Kemper,"' Booz Allen Hamilton Chairman Ralph Shrader said. "If you're going to have a big ego out there, you're going to be smacked down pretty badly. I've already found that out."

For years, the tournament prided itself on its longtime association with just one title sponsor - Kemper Insurance. That relationship ended a year ago, and a quick deal with an investment banking company yielded a new name, the FBR Capital Open, just for the 2003 edition.

Now, the tournament has a three-year deal with Booz Allen Hamilton.

However, all the name changes in the world can't help a golf tournament if it doesn't have a good field of players, and that's where this event has traditionally struggled. The tournament has a reputation for producing first-time tour winners, which make for good human interest stories but not banner headlines.

No one on the current top 10 money list has committed to play this year. The marquee names so far include Corey Pavin, Justin Leonard, Lee Janzen, Rich Beem and defending champion Rory Sabbatini.

The timing doesn't help. The tournament usually takes place a week or two before the U.S. Open, serving as a convenient tuneup for the second major of the year. This year, for the first time in its 25-year history in Washington, the event is being held after the Open. The dates are June 24-27, when heat and humidity are reaching full steam in the D.C. area.

Prospects are much more promising for next year, where there are tentative plans to hold the tournament at the nearby prestigious Congressional Country Club one week before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C. One of the best fields in event history will no doubt be on hand, but it's expected to be a one-year blip.

Shrader said he has spoken to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem about the tournament's place on the calendar.

"We're going to leave no stone unturned to make this event a really strong event on the PGA Tour," Shrader said. "But there are some things we're going to need help on. One of those things is consideration of dates."

The one-year move to Congressional will give tour officials a chance to consider substantial changes to the Avenel course, which is well-designed for spectators but has received mixed reviews from players.

Tournament official Steven Lesnik said the course could receive "somewhere between a renovation and a substantial overhaul" that would include better player amenities, such as an improved driving range.

"We need a venue that allows us to compete with other venues this time of year," Lesnik said.