By Punch Correspondent Darryl Keeton
One of the fun things to watch at a golf tournament is the mingling of hard core fans, casual observers of the sport and those who are just looking to get out and enjoy some food and drinks at a prestigious event.
Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD was the scene for all of this over the weekend, when the AT&T National golf tournament returned to the area. The 6th Annual Tournament featured a hefty purse of $6.5 million and brought out 120 of the PGA Tour â€˜s best from June 26 â€“ July 1, in a contest benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation. But what began as a golf tournament broke out into an episode of â€œSurvivorâ€ as the field had to contend with a challenging course, blistering heat and a storm that dismantled trees and knocked out power temporarily at the Club.
Tournament officials decided to close the event to spectators on Saturday as roadways leading to the event were blocked, debris was scattered on and around the course and on-site vendors were unable to get up and running. This contributed to a massive turnout of nearly 50,000 people on Sunday when those with tickets from Saturday were allowed to return on the final day.
Professional golf proved to be a nice escape for thousands who were affected by power outages but still got the chance to watch an exciting finish between Bo Van Pelt and tournament host, Tiger Woods. Even those who looked battered and beaten from the sun, refused to succumb rather than miss the end this duel. Woods and Van Pelt proved to be the only men left with a true chance to win after competing hard on the opening front nine and they were either tied or separated by one stroke on the final holes leading to the finish of the tournament.
Folks watching monitors in the sponsor tents were tipped off early with the oohs and aahhs coming from nearby holes before the tape delayed broadcast could deliver the results of a good or bad shot by the competitors. If Tiger had detractors at the event, they would have been hard to find. Screams of joy, admiration and shouts of love from grown men could be heard around the gallery as everyone celebrated Woodsâ€™ 74th tour victory. The $1.17 million that Tiger won yesterday will go directly to his foundation.
Tiger played the roles of headliner, host and eventually winner of the tournament that he founded in 2009 to recognize members of the military and their families as well as bring attention to the work of his foundation. The tournament distributed 30,000 complimentary tickets to local U.S. military members who are active, reserved or retired and treated them to a special climate-controlled tent, sponsored by Lockheed Martin.
Since its inception in 1996 by Tiger Woods and his father, Earl, the Tiger Woods Foundation has reached millions of young people by delivering unique experiences and innovative educational opportunities for youth worldwide. The Foundation recently celebrated the official expansion of the Tiger Woods Learning Center with the launch of two campuses in Washington, D.C. The two TWLC-DC campuses are located at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Ward 6 and the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Ward 7.
And a shout out to the tournament sponsor, AT&T is in order of course.Â DC-based veteran and AT&T employee Cheryl Henderson (above) participated as a pin-flag holder at the 17th hole. The flags were replaced with American flags as part of the tournamentâ€™s mission to honor military servicemembers and veterans. Despite the 100+ degree heat on Friday, she made a hit on the green with the players, and was accompanied by her husband, a fellow veteran in uniform. Cheryl was interviewed by the PGA on AT&Tâ€™s military hiring initiatives.
Local AT&T facilitated this siteâ€™s coverage. During the tournament, attendees had access to free wi-fi and a virtual texting and driving game at the AT&T booth.
To view the photo gallery from the tournament as well as those from TWLC, please click HERE.
For more information on their programs, please visit TigerWoodsFoundation.org.
**Darryl Keeton is a distribution executive in the asset management industry. He and his wife Zoe Rodriguez-Keeton share a passion for adventure, travel and sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.***