BETHESDA, Md. – The U.S. Open Championship golf tournament will return in June to Montgomery County for the first time in 33 years.
All 35,000 tickets for each day of competition at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda have sold out, the U.S. Golf Association said.
Local businesses and county officials are already gearing up for the rush of business they expect during the tournament, June 9-15. Last year’s U.S. Open, held in Bloomfield, Mich., raised $10 million for that area, the USGA said.
“Everybody’s looking at it as a major economic boon to the community,” said Gordon Aoyagi, a Montgomery County administrative official.
The prestigious 102-year-old Open is the oldest USGA tournament and the only one in which amateurs compete with professionals. Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus are expected to be among those playing. The winner gets $465,000 and automatic invitations to four major golf championships for several years.
In addition, most of the U.S. Open competitors will use the Kemper Open as a warm-up, drawing golf fans to Montgomery County for an extra week, said Kemper chairman Ben Brundred. The Kemper Open is held annually at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac, adjacent to Congressional. Kemper officials expect 50,000 fans during the last two days of play there, June 7 and 8.
Bundred said ticket sales for the Kemper Open have jumped 60 percent from last year. In 1995, the Kemper Open raised $17 million for the Montgomery County government and area businesses, he said.
Most of the county government’s profits will come from the sales tax on official T-shirts, hats and other merchandise sold at both tournaments, said Kelly Groff, executive director of the Montgomery Conference and Visitors Bureau.
The U.S. Golf Association gets 60 percent of the profits from merchandise sales at Congressional and the Tournament Players Club. The two clubs will pocket the remaining 40 percent.
In addition, county officials are encouraging local businesses to advertise extensively in tournament programs and local newspapers, Groff said.
“We’re doing a lot of marketing to make sure people come here,” she said.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership, a joint effort by public and private organizations to promote downtown Bethesda, is creating a card that golf enthusiasts attending the tournaments can redeem for discounts at local restaurants and stores.
“I think we’ll have a lot of ripple effect, economically,” said Dee Metz, the executive director.
Fans usually stay at the golf course all day, then eat dinner and shop at local businesses at night, she said.
East Coast Golf and Tennis, an equipment and merchandise store in Bethesda, expects sales to double during the two tournaments. “There’s going to be a lot of people in town,” said Brian Delaney, a salesman.
Bethesda’s Positano Ristorante Italiano expects to add fancy dishes like rack of lamb to the menu during the tournaments because the fans are “connoisseurs,” said Luigi Traettino, who co-owns the eatery with his wife, Angela.
“We try to make our menu have a little more variety” when golf fans come to town, he said.
Traettino said when the U.S. Senior Open and the Kemper Open were both held in the county in 1995, they brought many extra customers.
Lloyd Hartsfield, co-owner of the Cottonwood Cafe in Bethesda, said he braced for huge crowds during the Senior Open, but they never came. But this year, he said, “There’s a good chance we’ll feel a lot of it.”
Restaurants in Potomac Plaza, just a mile down River Road from Congressional, are preparing for crowds as well.
“We are anticipating a jump in business,” said Jason Lysak, manager of Flaps Rickenbacker’s, a small home-style restaurant in the plaza.
He said the owners of Flaps have been talking with both country clubs and county officials about marketing techniques and advertising.
During both tournaments, fans will be required to take buses to the golf courses in an attempt to ease traffic congestion.
Traffic is usually a problem during the Kemper Open, said Fritz Siegfried, owner of Cafe Roval, located across the street from Potomac Plaza. With twice as many golf fans expected this year, because of the two tournaments, Siegfried said he hopes to “capture the business and not just the headaches.” -30-