Tournament recap: 2017 Principal Charity Classic truly a win-win event.

Tom Lehman lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., but he views life through a Midwestern lens.

He was born and raised in Minnesota, and attended college there, before reaching golf’s biggest stage. Lehman won four times on the Web.com Tour. He won five times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1996 British Open. And he’s won 10 times on the PGA TOUR Champions. He is the only golfer to be named player of the year on all three tours.

Lehman has covered a lot of miles, and been in a lot of states, during his career. But the Midwest remains close to his heart. He can relate to the people, and he knows a good thing when he sees it.

“The PGA TOUR Champions belongs in cities like Des Moines,” Lehman said during last week’s Principal Charity Classic at the Wakonda Club. “Big cities like these are major areas, but it’s not Los Angeles, it’s not Atlanta, it’s not Chicago. The people here support the tournament. They come out and make us feel so good. They raise a lot of money for local charities. So I think it’s really a win-win for the PGA TOUR Champions and a win-win for Des Moines.”

Brandt Jobe won for the first time in the PGA TOUR Champions career, receiving a check for $262,500. But once again, charity will be the biggest winner.

Dan Houston, the chairman, president and CEO of Principal, said that he expects this year’s tournament to raise in excess of $2 million for charity. The 2016 tournament raised a record $2,053,725 for the six designated charities – Blank Children’s Hospital, Bravo Greater Des Moines, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Mercy Medical Center, United Way of Central Iowa and Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa – as well as the Birdies for Charity partners.

This year’s event is expected to push the number of charity dollars well past the $10 million milestone since Principal became title sponsor in 2007.

That’s some serious win-win.

So are the 1,221 volunteers who stepped up and offered a helping hand. Those volunteers came from 14 states, with ages ranging from 10 to 88.

Raising money for charity is behind Principal’s decision to serve as title sponsor. But Houston will tell you that to make this community a better place, the community needs to be involved. Mission accomplished.

This year, a record 375 corporate sponsors stepped up. That includes everything, from big corporations to family-run businesses.

The Wakonda Club, serving as the host for the fifth year, was a winning partner as well. And players raved about the outstanding conditions of the course, despite the hot, dry conditions.

Despite that heat, a total of 81,550 fans came through the gates during the three days of competition. That included 30,412 on championship Sunday.

This year’s event started in earnest on Friday with an emotional, moving ceremony that included first responders. Des Moines police, led by Chief Dana Wingert, were well represented. Des Moines firefighters took part as well.

On Sunday, Jobe got more than a check. There was also a trophy to take back home to Argyle, Texas. And Wingert presented Jobe with a Des Moines Police Department dress uniform jacket on the 18th green.

As Jobe and Wingert stood side by side, and the fans showed their respect with a stirring ovation, it was pretty evident that the Principal Charity Classic is more than a golf tournament.

It’s a way to thank those who serve, and to help improve and shape Greater Des Moines moving forward with those charity dollars.

As Lehman would say, that’s a win-win.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

 


Brandt Jobe wins by one at Principal Charity Classic for first career PGA TOUR Champions victory.

It’s a small world after all.

Brandt Jobe won the Principal Charity Classic Sunday at the Wakonda Club. He outdueled his good friend and college roommate, defending tournament champion Scott McCarron, down the stretch.

Jobe’s wife, Jennifer, is from Dubuque, where her parents still live.

“I just can’t get the smile off my face,” Jennifer said.

Originally, Jennifer wasn’t going to come to Des Moines. She was going to join her son, Jackson, at a baseball tournament in Tulsa, Okla.

“I talked to my brother, Jeff, on the phone and he said, “You’ve got to take advantage of being back home and being there with Brandt,” Jennifer said.

She texted Jeff back on Sunday.

“Thanks,” she told him.

The strap on Brandt Jobe’s tour golf bag broke before Saturday’s second round of the Principal Charity Classic. Jobe found a carry bag to use for the rest of the tournament. And he offered his tour bag to his former high school classmate, Greg Conrad. The same Greg Conrad who is tournament director of the Principal Charity Classic. They attended Kent Denver School in Englewood, Colo. “He said, if you want it I’d love to give it to you,” Conrad said of the bag. “He said, “I’ll sign it and leave it by my locker. I don’t think it will be worth much, but you can do with it what you want.’ And I said, “I think it will be worth more than you think.” A day later, Jobe was the newest champion of the Principal Charity Classic. And Conrad had a collector’s item.

Jobe and Principal Charity Classic tournament director Greg Conrad attended the same high school. Conrad was a freshman at Kent Denver School in Englewood, Colo., when Jobe was a senior. Conrad was a trainer on the baseball team. Jobe was the ace pitcher. Small world, indeed.

Jobe shot a final-round 69 and finished at 14-under-par 202. McCarron, who ran off six straight birdies to fly up the leaderboard, shot a 6-under-par 66 but missed a 41/2-birdie putt on the 18th green to finish one shot behind his former UCLA teammate.

“It was a great finish,” McCarron said. “I just missed one putt. That’s the way it goes. I played really good for a stretch of holes, made six birdies in a row and just couldn’t get any more down the stretch. Brandt Jobe, I’m really happy for him. Really proud of him.”

Jobe won using a new putter. He changed after McCarron told him his putting stunk two weeks after the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

“Yea, how about that,” Jobe said. “I changed putters and win the next week, so go figure.”

The key word there is win. Jobe’s last professional victory came 18 years ago, at the Mizuno Open on the Japan Golf Tour. He had played 403 events on the PGA TOUR, Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR Champions, without a victory.

The drought is over, and Jobe has a first-place check for $262,500 to prove it.

“It’s been a long time,” Jobe said. “I lost in a playoff on the PGA TOUR and had a couple of close calls, but it’s hard. You’re out here to win, and I haven’t done as good a job as I would have liked. So this is nice. It’s a little bit of a relief.”

McCarron shared the runner-up spot with Kevin Sutherland, who holed his final shot of the tournament for an eagle-2 on No. 18.

“There’s a little luck involved,” Sutherland said. “But I hit a really good shot.”

Sutherland’s final-round included another eagle at the par-5 13th. A double bogey on the par-3 9th proved costly in his closing 68.

Bernhard Langer, the Schwab Cup points leader and No. 1 money winner this season, closed with a bogey-free 67. Langer missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the final green that would have earned him a share of second.

“I was pleased with most of what I did,” said Langer, who was going for three PGA TOUR Champions victories in a row. “I just didn’t quite have it in me.”

It was still the best showing for Langer at Wakonda, where he tied for 48th in 2015 and tied for 31st in 2013. This was his 141st career Top 10 finish in 197 PGA TOUR Champions events.

Jobe started the final round tied for the lead with Glen Day, and was rock solid the entire round.  He had four birdies and one bogey Sunday. But McCarron almost caught him.

Jobe had six straight birdies in a second-round 66 that got him the lead Saturday. McCarron matched that streak, and the two were tied at 13 under par after Jobe made his only bogey of the day at the par-3 14th.

Jobe looked at the leaderboard at one point while McCarron was making his run, and smiled.

“I knew that’s the way it was going to work out,” said Jobe, who regained the lead with a birdie at the par-5 15th.

When McCarron walked off 18 tee, Jobe was on 16 green. The two made eye contact and gave each other a thumbs-up.

McCarron was 41/2 feet away from tying Jobe on the 18th green, but missed it.

“I played to the right side of the cup, but it broke more than I thought it would,” McCarron said.

McCarron figured his chances of going back-to-back at Wakonda were extinguished at that point.

“I’m happy for him,” McCarron said of his roommate as Jobe walked up the 18th fairway. “I’m glad he won it.”

Jobe played a safe second shot to the front of the 18th green, then two-putted for his first PGA TOUR Champions victory. It came on the same green where McCarron had made a birdie putt for his first PGA TOUR Champions victory the year before.

“Wow, how about that,” McCarron said to his wife, Jenny, as Jobe tapped in his final putt. He then walked out to the green and hugged Jobe.

“We’re going to Hawaii,” McCarron said to Jennifer Jobe.

The PGA TOUR Champions winners open the following season at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

“When I saw Scott at (13 under) I thought, “Oh my gosh,’” Jennifer said. “But I wouldn’t have minded coming in second to Scott.”

Instead, Jennifer kissed her winning husband when it was over.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Jennifer said.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Round 2 recap: Saturday at the Principal Charity Classic.

Dave Marr, Golf Channel (left); Brandt Jobe; and Scott McCarron at the 2017 Principal Charity Classic.

Brandt Jobe and Scott McCarron were college freshmen at UCLA when they first met, in the parking lot of the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif.

“He was the first guy I met at UCLA,” McCarron said.

They were told to meet in that parking lot by their coach, Eddie Merrins.

“He said, “You’re going to have a game at Bel-Air with this kid from Colorado,” McCarron said. “I drove 61/2 hours from Sacramento, pulled into the parking lot and he was standing right there. I said, “Are you Brandt Jobe?’ He said, “Are you Scott McCarron?’ I said, “Yes, let’s go play. We went out that night, and became best friends forever.”

Both graduated from UCLA in 1988. Both majored in history. They played the PGA TOUR together. They also spent time on the Canadian Tour and the Hooters Tour at the same time. And now they’re on the PGA TOUR Champions together.

McCarron is the defending champion at the Principal Charity Classic, and Jobe is in position to win the same trophy on Sunday at the Wakonda Club.

Jobe shot a six-under-par 66, the lowest round of the day, and is tied for the lead with Glen Day at 11-under 133 heading into Sunday’s final round.

It was a remarkable round in hot, windy conditions. It was also remarkable because after making a double-bogey 5 at No. 9, Jobe ran off six straight birdies. It matched the longest streak on the PGA TOUR Champions this year. Jerry Smith, David Toms and Billy Mayfair all had six straight at the Allianz Championship.

“I just completely screwed up on No. 9,” Jobe said. “That got me pretty hot. So the it was like, “Let’s go, I have nothing to lose.’  You never know when you’re going to make a bunch in a row, but it worked out nicely.”

Day shot a 67, and is the only player in the field without a bogey through the first two rounds. Dating back to the 2016 Principal Charity Classic, Day has a streak of 47 consecutive bogey-free holes. Day also has an active PGA TOUR Champions streak of 48 consecutive holes without a bogey, dating back to the last 12 holes of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Day has hit 33 of 36 greens in regulation the first two rounds.

“Luckily, the greens are still fairly receptive,” Day said. “They’re bouncing, and I think they’re perfect. I think the staff has done a wonderful job with the weather they’ve had because it could have gotten away from them real quick.”

Kevin Sutherland will join Jobe and Day in the final pairing, teeing off Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Sutherland shot a second-round 69 and is at 135, two shots back.

Three more players – Tom Lehman, Steve Flesch and Michael Bradley – are tied for fourth at 136.

It should come as no surprise that Lehman is in contention this week. The Minnesota native has finished eighth or better in all five of his previous Principal Charity Classic appearances. The first two were at  Glen Oaks. The last three were at Wakonda, a course Lehman first played as a University of Minnesota golfer in the Drake Relays Invitational.

“It’s a good course for me,” said Lehman, who won his 10th career PGA TOUR Champions title earlier this year in Tucson, Ariz. “I think it’s a good golf course for people who drive the ball well and who are solid and can manage their putting. So it kind of plays into my game typically.”

Bernhard Langer, who shared the first-round lead, had a two-shot advantage after holing his second shot for eagle at No. 4 and then making a birdie at No. 5 to go to 9 under. But he had a season-high five bogeys in a round of 71 and starts the final round four shots off the lead. Langer is coming off victories in the Regions Tradition and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, both majors.

“I wish I was a little closer,” Langer said. “Four back, that’s a lot to make up. But it’s happened before, so hopefully I will play better tomorrow.”

Both McCarron and Jobe finished in the Top 10 at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago. Over dinner and drinks that night, McCarron made a suggestion.

“He said, “What do you think about my putter?’ ” McCarron recalled. “I said, “It stinks. You’ve got to change putters. So he changed his putter this week. And he’s putting great. He should have listened to me a long time ago.”

Jobe said it was his alignment, more than his stroke, that was off. Both McCarron, a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR Champions, and his caddy told Jobe the same thing.

“They were not soft on me,” Jobe said. “At the end of the day I realized, “Alright, that stinks.”

Jobe switched to a putter that helps him align the ball much better. The proof is on the scorecard.

Jobe and he and McCarron “had way too much fun together” at UCLA. Now, Jobe wants to join his friend as a winner of the Principal Charity Classic.

“I’ve seen a lot of his game, and his game is good,” said McCarron, who is tied for seventh heading into Sunday’s final round after shooting 67-70. “He’s one of the best players out here. He’s just got to get some putts rolling.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Round 1 recap: Friday at the Principal Charity Classic.

Bernhard Langer has won more than 100 golf tournaments worldwide during his World Golf Hall of Fame career.

His play at the Wakonda Club in the Principal Charity Classic has been an exception.

But Friday, Langer looked like someone about to change that. Arriving in Des Moines on the heels of back-to-back major championship victories at the Regions Tradition and Senior PGA Championship, Langer shot a 6-under-par 66 and shares the lead after the first round of the Principal Charity Classic.

“I’ve never cracked it really,” Langer said of Wakonda, hosting this PGA TOUR Champions stop for a fifth time. “I had a couple of good runs at it, But I never got comfortable. Today, I played very solid.”

Langer had seven birdies and one bogey, and shares the lead with Glen Day and Kevin Sutherland. Defending champion Scott McCarron and former Principal champions Mark Calcavecchia and Russ Cochran are in a group just one shot back.

Langer’s previous low round at Wakonda had been a 68 in the first round of the 2015 tournament.

“I figured I had the game if I can win just about anywhere else in the world 105 times,” said the two-time Masters champion and winner of nine PGA TOUR Champions majors. “I’m a strong believer if you play well, you can play anywhere. And I haven’t done that here. I’ve had one or two good rounds, but I’ve never put three good rounds together. So hopefully we’ll break that this week and do better.”

Day started on the back nine and went birdie-eagle-birdie in a three-hole stretch starting at No. 14.

“I told my caddie, I played a lot better in the last month but I haven’t scored as good,” Day said. “I’d rather have the score.”

The forecast for the weekend is for temperatures near 100 and winds blowing at or in excess of 30 mph. Day, who has played in plenty of wind in his native Oklahoma, hopes the forecast is accurate.

“I don’t oppose it, trust me,” Day said. “I would rather have it. I’d rather the scores not be 20 under. That’s better for me.”

Sutherland, who also had a bogey-free round, has seven Top 10 finishes on the PGA TOUR Champions this season.

“It’s been a little shot, here or there, that’s prevented me from getting really close to winning or winning at all,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland had one victory and 48 Top 10 finishes in a PGA TOUR career that covered 447 events. It was a runner-up finish in the 1992 Ben Hogan Hawkeye Open at Finkbine in Iowa City that gave Sutherland’s career a big boost.

“That was a good week for me, I remember it vividly,” Sutherland said. “I think I three-putted the last hole to miss a playoff.  But I got on the PGA TOUR shortly after and stayed out there. That (1992) was the year that got me going in the right direction.”

McCarron was 1 over par through seven holes, but rallied with a back-nine 31 that saw him birdie six of the final eight holes.

“It was a good comeback,” McCarron said. “You can’t win the tournament the first day, but you can certainly lose it.  I was not doing very well on the front nine, and then I made a really strong finish.”

McCarron bogeyed the par-5 5th hole when his tee shot hit a tree and kicked 50 yards left out-of-bounds. That snapped a streak of 51 consecutive holes without a bogey going back to last year.  He also 3-putted No. 14 from 14 feet for his second bogey. McCarron had just one bogey the entire tournament last year.

“Knowing the weekend is going to be very difficult, I didn’t want to be too far behind,” McCarron said of his rally down the stretch.

Jerry Kelly, Scott Verplank and Brant Jobe joined the trio of former Principal champions at 67.

Calcavecchia , a winner in 2015, and Cochran, who took the  title in 2013, have both had injury issues this year. Cochran missed most of the 2016 season with an elbow injury. Then he had a heart issue in January, and doctors inserted two stents.

“There are a lot of people out here who play in pain and don’t have the flexibility or ability they used to have,” Cochran said. “So I fall right in line with those guys.  I think the challenge is to see if we can get our bodies to work. I used to say that it was 95 percent golf, and five percent maintenance. Now I’m just about the opposite.”

Wakonda feels like home for Calcavecchia, who grew up 31/2 hours away in Laurel, Neb.

“This is probably my favorite tournament,” said Calvacecchia, who has been seeing a chiropractor for his bad back. “Any time that you’ve won at a place, it jumps right up to the top of your list.”

Like he did in 2015, Calvacecchia was wearing slacks with a bacon design during Friday’s round. He doesn’t plan the same attire Saturday, when heat is expected to be a factor.

“These pants are more suited for 58 degrees than 98 degrees,” Calcavecchia said. “I think I’ll go with something a little lighter.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Scott McCarron and his secret weapon at Wakonda.

Scott McCarron leaned on a secret weapon when he won the Principal Charity Classic last year.

It was a guy who started working as a caddie at Wakonda Club when he was 10 years old. A guy who later became a member, won an Iowa Amateur and a Trans-Mississippi here and knows the ins and outs of this rolling, ageless old-school beauty as well as anyone.  A guy who has gone on to become the most accomplished amateur golfer in Iowa history.

“After you’ve played here a thousand times you know which way the ball is going to bounce,” said Mike McCoy of West Des Moines, aka Mr. Secret Weapon.

McCarron was a PGA TOUR Champions rookie last season when he arrived at Wakonda, a course he knew nothing about.

“I got here Tuesday, and it rained and rained,” McCarron said. “The course finally opened up and I played, 1, 2, 3 and maybe 4. Then it started raining again. And then I was in the Wednesday Pro-Am, and I was playing with Mike. I thought, “This is great, at least I can learn it.”

McCarron already knew McCoy through Mark Loomis, a friend of McCoy’s and McCarron’s producer at Fox Sports. McCarron did some analysis on the network’s golf coverage.

McCoy has won the Iowa Amateur six times, including 1995 at Wakonda. He won the Iowa Mid-Amateur six times. He won the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur, punching his ticket to the 2014 Masters. McCoy is an 11-time Iowa Amateur of the Year and six-time Iowa Senior Amateur of the Year. The crowning achievement came when he was selected to the 2015 Walker Cup team.

So that is the depth of knowledge and success McCarron tapped into when he got to Wakonda.

“(McCoy) was teaching me a lot about off the tees, because there’s a lot of blind shot,” McCarron said. “There’s a lot of shots where, yes, I can hit driver and carry some of those things, but you’ve got to lay back off the tee if you want to hit a full shot because you don’t want to be stuck with a downhill lie. So he was giving me a lot of strategy about what I needed to do to play this golf course. Going around with him was like going around with a seasoned veteran. He was like my caddie for the day, teaching me where to go.”

The next morning, McCoy left town to start preparations for his U.S. Open sectional qualifier in New Jersey five days later.  McCarron felt like he needed to play Wakonda again, but he wasn’t scheduled to play in Thursday’s Pro-Am.

And then friend and college roommate at UCLA, Brandt Jobe, mentioned to McCarron that he was looking for a way to get out of playing in Thursday’s Pro-Am.  McCarron immediately called Greg Conrad, the Principal Charity Classic’s tournament director.

“I said, ‘Hey, I want to take his spot, let’s work it out,’ ” McCarron recalled. “And they were able to do that and put it together.”

After another look at Wakonda, McCarron went out and shot 68-68-65 to finish one shot in front of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Billy Andrade. McCarron birdied the final three holes, and had just one bogey the entire tournament.

McCoy was keeping track of Sunday’s final round from New Jersey.

“I was thrilled for him, because I knew it meant a lot to him,” McCoy said. “And it was fun that I had a chance to send a day with him.”

It was McCarron’s first victory on the PGA TOUR Champions, and two more have followed. He added the 2016 Dominion Charity Classic and the 2017 Allianz Championship, making eagle on the final hole.

McCarron has had four other Top 10 finishes this season, including a tie for second at the Regions Tradition and a fifth at the Senior PGA Championship in his last two events.

Bernhard Langer won the Regions Tradition and Senior PGA Championship. McCarron is second on the PGA TOUR Champions money list with earnings of $784,351. Langer has more than doubled that.

“Bernhard Langer inspires me every day,” McCarron said. “There are days when I’m like, “I don’t really feel like working out, but I know Langer is probably working out.’ I should probably call him and see if he’s actually working out so I can sit on the couch, eat and watch TV.”

Langer inspires McCarron to dig a little deeper.

“He practices hard,” McCarron said. “He does his homework for golf courses. He’s here early and he doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s tough to beat. I have to play really, really well, and not make many mistakes, to have a chance to beat him.”

Thirty-two of the Top 40 players in the current Charles Schwab Cup standings are in the Principal Charity Classic field. Tom Lehman, who has finished fifth or better in all five of his Principal Charity Classic appearances, and Stephen Ames join Langer and McCarron as 2017 winners in the PGA TOUR Champions. But only McCarron has a secret weapon at Wakonda.

“He gives me more credit than I probably deserve,” McCoy said. “He hit all the shots, and I suspect he’ll do well. Wakonda is a great golf course, but it doesn’t suit everybody. The guys who figure it out, it can be had with the right game plan.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

 

 


Q&A with…Larry the Cable Guy

Dan Whitney, better known as comedian “Larry the Cable Guy,” played golf and entertained on Wednesday during his appearance at the Principal Charity Classic Prairie Meadows Pro-Am at the Wakonda Club.

Born in Pawnee City, Neb., Whitney is a noted Nebraska football fan. He’s also good at making people laugh. After his round, he put on his comedy face and joked around.

Q: Is comedy the best way to handle a tough day on the golf course?

A: Golf’s real humiliating. So it’s fun to come out and have a good time and laugh. You want to have some good shots. The one thing you’ve got to remember about golf is to not take it too serious. If you don’t make money playing golf, then you should come out and have a good time because you’re never going to get it right. No matter how good you think you are, just come out and have fun. You’ve got to have a sense of humor to play golf.

Q: Do you feel the same way about your comedy career?

A: I’ve been hilarious for many years. Next year will be my 30th year in the comedy business, and my fifth year of being funny. I’m excited about it. It’s a big anniversary for me.

Q: Why is playing in events like this important to you?

A: They’re always fun because all the money goes to kid’s charities, and here, in Des Moines and Iowa. Any time we can use our celebrity – if you want to call me that – and help out it’s always fun. And I love playing golf. You can play golf and help people out. That’s why you do it. A lot of people don’t realize how much money golf makes for veterans and kids. It’s an amazing thing.

Q: Your Nebraska Cornhuskers have lost three of the last four football games to Iowa. Did you consider not coming because of that?

A: Next question…No, we only don’t like Iowa one time a year, and that’s it. I love Iowa. I have a lot of friends in Iowa. Iowa’s just like Nebraska. Just another letter on the helmet. But you’ll never beat us again.

Q: Did you play well today?

A: I was on and off. Callaway gave me a $10,000 check when I got here not to play their clubs. That was awesome. It got pretty bad out there. My caddy was throwing clubs on the 11th hole. I’ve been playing golf for 61/2 years. I’m still learning. But I hit some good shots out there.

Q: Have you ever had a hole-in-one?

A: I’ve had 31, but no one was with me to see them. My first year in the American Century Tournament in Tahoe I had the Golf Channel Shot of the Day. I was on the 17th hole, the water hole, and it literally rolled a foot and a half past. I was nervous, and the greens were really fast. And I three-putted the shot of the day.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Bernhard Langer has Wakonda on his mind.

The number sits on top of a very high mountain: 45.

Hale Irwin has won an unprecedented 45 PGA TOUR Champions titles in his World Golf Hall of Fame career.

Bernhard Langer is now second on that list, with 32 victories. Can a man who turns 60 years old on August 27, a Hall of Famer in his own right, reach the top of that mountain?

“There are many other goals,” Langer said Wednesday at the Principal Charity Classic. “The goal is to improve, to get better.”

That’s a scary thought for the other players on the PGA TOUR Champions.

Langer comes to town riding momentum from victories in back-to-back majors, the Regions Tradition and Senior PGA Championship. His nine major triumphs are the most ever. Jack Nicklaus won eight.

He’s won $1,664,651 this season, more than double the No.2 money winner, defending Principal Charity Classic champion Scott McCarron.

Langer is on a fast track to surpass the $2 million mark for the sixth straight season. His $22 million and change in career earnings is second all-time to Irwin’s $27 million.

Langer’s won the Schwab Cup four times, including three years in a row. He’s won the Arnold Palmer Trophy, which goes to the leading money winner, eight times. He’s won the Jack Nicklaus Award, which goes to the player of the year, six times. He’s won the Bryon Nelson Award, which goes to the player with the lowest stroke average, five times.

Langer calls those achievements “short-term, intermediate goals. And then if I achieve some of that, I might have a shot at Hale Irwin. But it’s very unlikely.”

This week poses a different challenge for the two-time Masters champion. He’s out to unlock the secret of Wakonda, a course that has had his number on his previous two visits.

Langer tied for 31st in 2013, and tied for 48th in 2015. Both were his poorest finish of the season. Now he’s looking to turn that around.

“It has been on my mind,” Langer said. “I’ve been pondering what it is. I haven’t had a win here, or a top three, which I have had at many other places. It’s a different golf course. Very hilly, with lots of sidehill, downhill and uphill lies. It’s a very undulating course in general. But the greens are also tricky. I’m going to be contemplating that more in the next couple of days.”

Langer’s play at Wakonda is out of character. In addition to his 32 career victories, he’s had 26 runner-up finishes and 21 thirds. He’s had 140 Top 10 finishes in 196 events, a salty 71.4 percent.

As he prepares for Friday’s first round, Langer said he’s going to “see where I might have made mistakes in the past, or what part of the course gets me so I don’t perform as well as the others do.”

Langer has won at least once in each of the 11 years he’s played on the PGA TOUR Champions. And he’s shown no signs of slowing down. His secret?

“It’s not a diet,” Langer said. “I love desserts. I’m a sugar addict. On the other hand I eat reasonably well. I love vegetables and salads and all that kind of stuff. I don’t drink much alcohol. I don’t take any medication of any sorts. I try and live a healthy, active lifestyle. I work out. I have good genes. Maybe that’s what it takes.”

Being able to compete at a winning level consistently requires “a whole list of things,” Langer said. “It’s like a puzzle. It all has to come together. You’ve got to be healthy. Otherwise you can’t play the game you want to. You have to pace yourself. You have to have a good support system…your family around you, coaches, caddies, things like that. And you have to be eager and willing to work at it still.”

For four decades, that’s just what Langer has done.

“But I take a lot of time off, “ Langer said. “I get away from the game. When I do come back, I’m usually hungry and eager to do what I need to do.”

One of Langer’s many Top 10 finishes came at the 2012 Principal Charity Classic at Glen Oaks. This is his fifth appearance in the event.

“I think it’s a great event,” Langer said. “The people are phenomenal here. They do such a great job of putting so much effort into it. It’s been very well supported. I’m happy to be here and support the tournament. They raise a lot of money for charity. That’s what it’s all about.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Nielsen, Smith share Iowa pride and similar paths.

The golf careers of Lonnie Nielsen and Jerry Smith follow remarkably similar paths.

Both were born and raised in Iowa. Both became one of the state’s top amateur golfers in their eras, winning an Iowa Amateur along the way. Both made it to the PGA TOUR, with lukewarm success. Both worked as club pros before joining the PGA TOUR Champions, where they reached the winner’s circle.

And Smith is about to join Nielsen as a member of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. He will be enshrined Tuesday night at Hyperion Field Club. Nielsen was inducted in 2010.

But here’s a first. Both will be playing in the same PGA TOUR Champions event for the first time when they tee it up at the Principal Charity Classic starting Friday at Wakonda.

Lonnie Nielsen.

Nielsen, a native of Belle Plaine who retired after the 2012 season, is playing here on a sponsor’s exemption. Smith, a full-time PGA TOUR Champions member, is from Oskaloosa.

Three native Iowans have won on the senior tour. Tom Purtzer, a four-time winner, was born in Des Moines but moved when he was 3 years old.  Purtzer was also in the field for this year’s Principal Charity Classic before withdrawing. But since his time in Iowa was so limited, his Iowa status is shaky.

So for the sake of argument, Smith and Nielsen are the only Iowa high school products to win on the PGA TOUR Champions. The two visited Monday night at a function hosted by Jim Carney, another former Iowa Amateur winner and a Wakonda member.

“I didn’t really know Jerry, but I talked to him for quite awhile,” Nielsen said. “He’s loving life out here.”

Nielsen played in 125 PGA TOUR events. His best finish was a tie for fifth at the 1979 Ed McMahon-Jaycees Quad City Open.

But life on the PGA TOUR Champions worked out much better for Nielsen. He won the Commerce Bank Championship in 2007 and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in 2009.

“Those guys kicked me in the butt the first time around, and I figured they probably would the second time,” Nielsen said. “But my mulligan was much better.”

Nielsen chalks off his tepid PGA TOUR success to a fear. Of work.

“I was just in a different place in my life,” Nielsen. “I was so anxious. The thought of work really bothered me. It turns out that work wasn’t so bad. I wish I had realized that the first time.”

Nielsen took a job at a club pro at Crag Burn Golf Club in East Aurora, N.Y. It was a dream job.

“It was just the absolute perfect place for me,” Nielsen said.

He also had a successful playing career as a club pro, which got him ready for the PGA TOUR Champions.

Nielsen retired from the senior set after the 2012 season, and an aching knee played a huge factor. He had his left knee replaced in 2013. He had the same operation to replace his right knee in 2010.

“I have no pain anymore,” Nielsen said. “It’s such an unbelievable blessing, really.”

And now he’s back with the boys in an Iowa homecoming of sorts.

“I’m looking forward to the week,” Nielsen said.

Jerry Smith.

Smith said that having two members of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in the same event gives him some Iowa pride.

“No question,” Smith said.

Smith made his PGA TOUR Champions debut at the 2014 Principal Charity Classic, playing on a sponsor’s exemption. He made the tour through qualifying in 2015, and has played well enough to keep his playing status the past two years.

That includes a victory at the 2015 Encompass Championship. He’s also had a pair of thirds and seven Top 10 finishes.  Smith played in 153 PGA Tour events, with one third-place finish and six Top 10s.

“The golf courses are not overwhelming like they are on the regular tour these days,” Smith said. “A lot of the guys out here have made their fortunes. Granted, they are still working hard and playing hard. But I don’t know if they’re putting in quite the effort they did on the regular tour. And I think guys like Lonnie and I, when we got out here, we were hungry.”

This is the first time Nielsen has played in the Principal Charity Classic at Wakonda. He tied for 10th in 2010 and tied for 17th in 2009 at Glen Oaks. Smith’s best finish was a tie for 14th last year.

Smith won better than $600,000 in each of the last two years. He’s currently 43rd on the money list with earnings of $163,592.

“We’re only through 10 tournaments, but the quality of depth is a little stronger this year,” Smith said.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

Editor’s note: Rick Brown has written about the two Iowa Golf Hall of Fame members in this year’s field, but there will actually be another covering the tournament. Congratulations to the author himself on being named a 2017 Iowa Golf Hall of Fame inductee. Rick is an 11-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year winner and a true champion of the game of golf. We are proud to feature his work on PrincipalCharityClassic.com. Congrats, Rick!


Bernhard Langer, defending champion Scott McCarron highlight 2017 Principal Charity Classic field.

The Principal Charity Classic®, presented by Wells Fargo, is pleased to announce the player field for this year’s tournament, set for June 6-11 at historic Wakonda Club near downtown Des Moines.

The Principal Charity Classic was named the PGA TOUR Champions Tournament of the Year in 2016 and has raised nearly $10 million to benefit Iowa children’s charities in the past decade.

Defending tournament champion Scott McCarron, now a three-time PGA TOUR Champions winner after earning his first career PGA TOUR Champions victory at the 2016 Principal Charity Classic, will be joined by 77 additional competitors, including:

  • Bernhard Langer, the 2016 PGA TOUR Champions Player of the Year and defending Charles Schwab Cup champion. The two-time Masters champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member has 32 career PGA TOUR Champions wins, the second-highest total in TOUR history (Hale Irwin leads with 45). With his recent victory at the 2017 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Langer became the first player to win all five majors on the PGA TOUR Champions and surpassed Jack Nicklaus’ record for the most senior major titles (Langer now has nine total). Langer last competed in the Principal Charity Classic in 2015.
  • Past Principal Charity Classic champions Mark Calcavecchia (’15), Russ Cochran (’13), Jay Haas (’07, ’08, ’12), Bob Gilder (’02, ’11) and Tom Pernice, Jr. (‘14).
  • PGA TOUR Champions rookies Jerry Kelly, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, and David Toms, winner of the 2001 PGA Championship and 13 career PGA TOUR events.
  • Perennial fan favorites Fred Funk, Tom Lehman, Jesper Parnevik, Fuzzy Zoeller and Billy Andrade, who set a new Wakonda Club course record (63) during the second round of the 2016 Principal Charity Classic.
  • Iowa native Jerry Smith, a 2017 inductee into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. Smith, who received a sponsor exemption to play in the 2014 Principal Charity Classic, went on to earn PGA TOUR Champions Rookie of the Year honors in 2015. He has played in the Principal Charity Classic for the past three years, with a best finish of T14 in 2016.

Also included in the 2017 Principal Charity Classic field are five players who received sponsor exemptions: Jay Don Blake, owner of more than three dozen top-10 career finishes in official PGA TOUR events; Damon Green, past Principal Charity Classic participant (’11, ’12) and professional caddie for PGA TOUR star and Iowa native Zach Johnson; Gary Hallberg, one of only 12 players to win a tournament on the PGA TOUR, Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR Champions; Brian Henninger, two-time PGA TOUR winner and second-place finisher at the 2015 Principal Charity Classic; and Lonnie Nielsen, Iowa native and member of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame.

Principal Charity Classic tickets start at just $20, and may be purchased online at www.principalcharityclassic.com or at the tournament gates. Kids 15 and under may attend the tournament for free if accompanied by a ticketed adult. Complimentary admission is also provided for all active duty, retired and reserve military along with their dependents.

For more information, visit www.principalcharityclassic.com.

2017 Principal Charity Classic Final Field

Michael Allen
Stephen Ames
Billy Andrade
Tommy Armour III
Woody Austin
Jay Don Blake +
Michael Bradley
Paul Broadhurst
Mark Brooks
Olin Browne
Bart Bryant
Tom Byrum
Mark Calcavecchia
Jim Carter
Russ Cochran
Marco Dawson
Glen Day
Scott Dunlap
Joe Durant
Steve Flesch
Dan Forsman
Carlos Franco
David Frost
Fred Funk
Bobby Gage
Doug Garwood
Bob Gilder
Bill Glasson
Mike Goodes
Paul Goydos
Damon Green +
Jay Haas
Gary Hallberg +
Todd Hamilton
Brian Henninger +
John Huston
Peter Jacobsen
Lee Janzen
Brandt Jobe
Jerry Kelly
Skip Kendall
Bernhard Langer
Tom Lehman
Steve Lowery
Billy Mayfair
Blaine McCallister
Scott McCarron *
Larry Mize
Lonnie Nielsen +
Scott Parel
Jesper Parnevik
Craig Parry
Steve Pate
Tom Pernice Jr.
Tim Petrovic
Phillip Price
Tom Purtzer
Fran Quinn
Loren Roberts
Gene Sauers
Wes Short, Jr.
Joey Sindelar
Jeff Sluman
Jerry Smith
Rod Spittle
Kevin Sutherland
Esteban Toledo
David Toms
Kirk Triplett
Bob Tway
Scott Verplank
Duffy Waldorf
Willie Wood
Fuzzy Zoeller

Field notes

Final field will include 78 players; 4 event qualifiers currently TBD.

* denotes defending champion

+ denotes players receiving 2017 sponsor exemptions


Principal Charity Classic Advance Notes from PGA TOUR Champions

Click here to view Principal Charity Classic Advance Notes from PGA TOUR Champions