Friday, June 23, 2006

The Last Walk

A view of the 18th hole at Congressional Country Club

A view of the 18th hole at TPC Avenel

Yesterday I went to what will most likely be my (and several thousand golf fans) final PGA Golf event here in the DC area. The PGA Tour has indicated they will move our tour spot from June to the Fall starting in 2007. All of this is conditional on the event finding a corporate sponsor to replace Booz Allen. Right now no one has stepped up to fill this void and things don’t look good when the Washington Post prints a preview of the event and shows a tombstone on the cover.

One of the major reasons the tour eliminated the DC area from the June slot was the reluctance of Booz Allen to accept the week after the U.S. Open for its event. The original deadline passed without a sponsor, so the deadline was extended and the PGA Tour is still looking for sponsors. Who would sponsor a tournament in the Fall after the end of the real PGA season right in the middle of the Washington Redskins schedule? Oh yeah no CBS coverage either. Insert a crickets chirping sound bite here.

This event usually has your less known PGA players in the field and a sometimes you get a champion where you scratch your head and say who? (Tom Byrum, Grant Waite, Morris Hatalsky and Tom Scherrer come to mind) Only one player in the top 30 is here this year (Pradrag Harrington). Still, it is an opportunity for these players as a solid week can put you in great shape to secure playing privileges for the following season. This event is like a major for the guys who are journeymen of the PGA Tour. For those of us like me who are die hard fans of the Tour, this is perhaps as exciting as watching Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson battle.

All that said, I arrived at TPC Avenel yesterday around 1:00. An article in The Washington Post this week made me decide to follow Justin Peters around. I am a huge Golf Channel fan and loved their reality show called The Big Break, in which golfers competed in skills challenges for prizes. Justin won the first competition and received four sponsors exemptions on the Canadian PGA Tour. I posted a note on the Golf Channel Message Board and got some replies to go root for Justin, so I did. He even knew I would be out there as he's read and posted on the boards. On the par three third hole he asked if I was Bill-DC who posted and we chatted while he waited to tee off.

He was playing with Jeff Overton of Evansville, IL and James McLean of Melbourne Australia.
Justin started out fine, six pars in a row to start but he ran into some trouble on the last three holes on the front side and was three over heading into the back. He got two pars on ten and eleven but twelve hurt. I believe he went driver off the tee (The other two went three wood) and got in trouble and ended up doubling the hole.

He birdied 13 and bogeyed 14 (301 yard par four) and 15 before finishing up with three pars and a 77. Overton shot 70 and McLean shot 65 good for a tie for 4th place.

After the round we chatted again briefly. Justin plans to change putters for the second round and be more aggressive.

Despite the 77, there is no question he has the game to make it out there on tour. He believes it and in following him, I know he'll make it one day. All you have to do is look at Fred Funk who was the University of Maryland's golf coach. At 31 he secured his playing priviledges and at 50, he's had a nice long career. No reason why Justin can't do the same.

I hope this isn't the end of our tour event. Walking out, I reflected on the twenty five plus years this event has been here. While you have your unknown's winning this event from time to time, this tournament had players who became very talented golfers after getting their first PGA Tour wins here. Fred Couples in '83, Greg Norman in '84, Bill Glasson in '85, Billy Andrade in '91, Steve Stricker in '96, Stuart Appleby in '98, Rich Beem in '99. All these players have multiple victories on the PGA Tour and Couples, Norman and Beem have gone on to win major championships.

My family and I also volunteered out there for several of these events and I've always found some time to make it out there to support the event. I'm a huge fan and it would be a major loss if the DC area were to lose this event.

1 comment:

Bill-DC said...

UPDATE: This tournament finally ended just a moment ago. Ben Curtis is your winner at 20 under par. He didn't get the tournament record of 21 under because he finished bogey, bogey but considering he waited two extra days for this, you can excuse the finish. He won by five shots for his second victory as a professional.

Updates on the guys I followed:
Jeff Overton finished tied for 34th with scores of 70,66,73,68-277

James McLean finished tied for 69th with scores of 66,69,78,76-289

Justin Peters shot 74 on Friday and at 151, missed the cut. Over on the Golf Channel message boards he told a fellow Big Break competitor that he was disappointed in his putting, he never really figured out the Avenel greens. He loved the experience and will build from it as this was just his second PGA Tour event.