Tournament moves up from October to May
In its seventh year, Washington's stop on the Web.com Tour has been through plenty of changes, including three different golf courses and two title sponsors. This year as the event evolves further, with a different date, no title sponsor, and another company running the tour, change again is the theme.
When the Mid-Atlantic Championship takes place May 30-June 2, the only constant will be the venue. TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm will host for the second time in eight months as the tournament shifts from October.
Last year, on the same Sunday that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III sustained a concussion in a game at FedEx Field against the Atlanta Falcons, David Lingmerth was shooting a final-round 66 at Avenel to rally to a one-stroke victory over Casey Wittenberg.
As Lingmerth was completing his round on a gray, chilly day, many fans were focused on televisions in the Avenel clubhouse cheering on the Redskins, the Ravens' afternoon game at Kansas City or the Washington Nationals' afternoon playoff game at St. Louis.
It was a tough time of the year for a golf tournament to compete for the attention of Washington-area sports fans. A move back to the spring is a welcome switch, especially with the Nationals out of town the weekend of this year's event. The tournament also hopes to build on the positive momentum of playing a second straight year at Avenel.
"Last year, this facility received rave reviews from PGA Tour players," Mid-Atlantic Championship director Teo Sodeman said.
Jason Gore, a seven-time winner on the Web.com Tour, called Avenel the best course on the circuit. As a former member of the PGA Tour, Gore played the course several times when it hosted an annual PGA event. On Monday, he said he was in favor of the extensive renovation the course underwent five years ago.
"I think it's awesome. This course was very severe. They softened up the course, which made it better, but not necessarily easier," Gore said. "It's a fine line to walk when you're doing golf-course design. If you hit bad shots, you're gonna get penalized. If you hit great shots, you're gonna be rewarded. That's the backbone of a great golf course."
Instead of attention paid to the title sponsor, the focus this year shifts to the primary charity that will benefit from the tournament, the Salute Military Golf Association, a non-profit based in Montgomery County that provides rehabilitative golf experiences for wounded war veterans and their families to improve their quality of life.
One of the beneficiaries of the program, Ramon Padilla, lost most of his left arm and suffered a severe brain injury in a blast in Afghanistan, played at Avenel on Monday, and compared golf to war.
"You've given us another opportunity to fight on a wide-open battlefield. You've got your weapon -- your golf club. You've got your rounds -- your golf balls. You've got your target -- the flag," Padilla said. "This time nobody's shooting back, which is a good thing. Until you hear fore. Then it's oh, [shoot], Incoming!"