Sun Shines Down on PCC

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

It’s as if Mother Nature was saying, “Sorry, we owed you one.”
Payback was a beautiful thing Sunday, when perfect weather put a sunny bow around the 2019 Principal Charity Classic at the Wakonda Club.

“They did owe us,” tournament director Doug Habgood said. “And they’re paying us back.”

A year after inclement weather wiped out the final round, Kevin Sutherland was crowned champion on a chamber of commerce day.

“It was disappointing a year ago to lose the final day,” said Dan Houston, chairman, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, the tournament’s title sponsor for a 13thyear. “It was somewhat anticlimactic relative to all the other great finishes we’ve had.”

This week didn’t get off to a great start. Heavy rain washed out Tuesday’s pro-am and shortened Wednesday and Thursday pro-ams to 10 holes, with no carts allowed.

Wakonda superintendent John Temme and his staff did an incredible job getting the course in tournament-ready condition for the start of official play on Friday. Some of the mowing was done with push mowers because the turf was so saturated. Other area clubs pitched in to help.

“I never thought the players would be raving about the course,” Habgood said. “It really played amazingly well.”

Aaron Krueger, Wakonda’s director of golf, stood outside the pro shop Sunday, looking at something he didn’t expect to see earlier in the week – a pristine course that was starting to play firm and fast. A north wind the last two days helped dry the sponge that Wakonda had been.

“It does seem like a dream,” Krueger said.

Sutherland won’t be the only one leaving town with a nice check. Thousands of children will benefit from the charity dollars this tournament produces. A record $4,356,321 was raised last year. Houston predicts that a new record will be set this year. More than $17.7 million has been raised for children’s charities since Principal Financial Group took over as title sponsor in 2007

The money benefits the tournament’s six charity partners – Blank Children’s Hospital; Bravo Greater Des Moines; the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines;  MercyOne; United Way of Central Iowa; and Variety, the Children’s Charity.

Dollars raised by the highly successful Birdies for Charity program also touch many more youngsters in the Greater Des Moines area.

The Principal Charity Classic has clearly become a community event. Some 350 sponsors – more than any other PGA Tour Champions event – and 1,200 volunteers help make this a tournament that is the envy of many PGA Tour Champions stops.

“I just think there’s a lot of energy on the part of volunteers and the small and medium-sized businesses,” Houston said. 

Among those taking notice was Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player who is now lead analyst at Golf Channel. Chamblee, who was in the field this year on a sponsor’s exemption, was impressed with what he saw.

“It’s a win-win,” Chamblee said. “Principal has gotten the community involved. I don’t know how they did it. Every community is trying to do that.”

Houston said that the tournament’s mission of helping kids is one reason the community has joined forces with Principal to make this a first-class event.

“I think it has everything to do with that,” Houston said. “This year we’re knocking on the door of $5 million dollars (for charity).”

Habgood had a different twist on youth.

“We’ve had great crowds,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of kids out here. I’ve noticed the younger demographic keeps growing, which keeps the health of this event strong.”

There’s one more story that offers a glimpse of why the Principal Charity Classic marches on as a community event.

“The pro-am conditions were difficult,” Houston said. “They only got to play 10 holes and there were no carts. And there was not one complaint. Not a single one. Because people understand the real purpose of the tournament.”

Sutherland Roars to Playoff Win Over Parel

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Kevin Sutherland was a portrait of shock and surprise as he stood on Wakonda’s 18thgreen Sunday afternoon. 

Eight shots back when the final round started, Sutherland turned in the third-largest comeback in PGA Tour Champions history to win the Principal Charity Classic in a playoff over Scott Parel. Sutherland made a 10-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole for the third, and most unlikely, victory of his career.

“Usually when you win you feel like you had a chance,” Sutherland said. “I kind of came out of nowhere.”

Sutherland set a Wakonda course record and tied the tournament record with 10-under-par 62 Sunday. That included a record 8-under 28 the closing nine that enabled him catch Parel, who was trying to become the third player to win this tournament wire-to-wire.

Sutherland beat Parel in a seven-hole sudden-death playoff earlier this season at the Rapiscan Systems Classic in Biloxi, Miss.

“I feel bad for Scott,” Sutherland said. “He led the tournament from start to finish. He played fantastic. He deserved to win the tournament as much as anybody. I just happened to be the one that won.”

Sutherland and Parel, who had a five-shot lead on the field heading into play Sunday, tied at 17-under 199. That was a tournament record.  Parel, trying to become the third wire-to-wire winner in the Principal’s 19-year history, closed with a 70.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Parel, who  tied for second here last year. “I should have never been in a playoff to begin with. He played great, but I had too many chances. I just didn’t do it today.”

Sutherland has a reputation for going low. The 62 he shot at Wakonda, which matched the 9-under 62 Kirk Triplett shot in the final round of the 2012 championship played at Glen Oaks, was just the third-lowest round of his PGA Tour Champions career.

Sutherland is the only player on this tour  to break 60. He shot 59 in the second round of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in 2014. He also shot a 60 in the second round of the 2018 Boeing Classic.  Sutherland didn’t win either of those tournaments.

Sutherland has now broken 30 on four occasions on the PGA Tour Champions – two 28s and two 29s. He’s shot 62 or better five times. Sunday’s 62 was his career low for a final round.

 “I think I get greedy,” Sutherland said. “When I get going, I want to do more. I get excited to get to the next hole, because I think there’s another birdie coming. I’m not sure what else it could be. It’s a nice thing to have.”

Sutherland opened with a 72, good for a tie for 46thand nine shots back of Parel. Sutherland was eight shots back of Parel, in a tie for ninth, when he teed off Sunday. 

Sutherland teed off in anonymity, too, as all eyes were on Parel, the only player in the field who didn’t make a bogey the first two rounds. 

Parel’s five-shot lead started to shrink after he bogeyed the par-3 second hole. Jerry Kelly made the first serious run at the lead, getting within two shots on the front nine. Kelly had two golden opportunities to get closer, but didn’t get up-and-down from a greenside bunker for a birdie on the par-5 8thhole. He also missed a five-foot birdie putt on No. 9.

Parel took a three-shot lead to the back nine, and was still three up walking to the par-5 15th. By then, Sutherland had caught fire. Sutherland got to 15 under with birdies on the first six holes of the back nine. That’s when the thought of winning first entered his mind.

“I never even thought I had a chance to win until I got to 15,” Sutherland said. 

Parel, playing two pairings in from of Sutherland, opened the door when he sliced his tee shot on the 15thand ended up in the right rough on No. 16. 

“My foot slipped a little bit on the tee shot, then I think I hit the tree and it went farther right,” Parel said. “It was in a bad spot over there.’

Parel scrambled to make a bogey, dropping to 17 under. Sutherland’s birdie streak ended with he missed a 5-foot putt on the 16th.

“To make that one and shoot 9 under on the back would have been something special,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland rolled in a 25-footer for birdie on No. 17, and caught Parel with a 10-foot birdie on the 18thgreen.

Parel missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation, and he and Sutherland returned to the 18thtee to start the playoff.  It was almost a threesome.

Kelly hit his second shot at 18 a foot from the cup. He dropped to his knees when his ball danced around the cup and didn’t go in. Kelly shot a final-round 66 and finished one shot back.

On Saturday, it was Kelly who predicted a 10-under round would be out there on Sunday. Sutherland made him look like a soothsayer.

Parel had another chance for victory on the first playoff hole, but left his 10-footer for birdie short. They returned to the 18thhole to continue the playoff. After Parel missed a 12-footer for birdie, Sutherland made a putt that was almost identical to the one he made at the end of regulation.

“It was similar, so I really felt optimistic about the result,” Sutherland said. “I hit almost the same exact putt. I kind of left it out to the right a hair. But for some reason, it just kind of hangs on there and falls in.”

Parel Holds Five-Shot Lead Entering Sunday

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Scott Parel has averaged 65.5 shots over his last four competitive rounds at the Wakonda Club.

Add the fact that he enters Sunday’s final round of the Principal Charity Classic with a five-shot lead, and Parel is clearly the man to beat.

“There’s a 10-under-par (round) out there,” said Jerry Kelly, who is tied for second with Marco Dawson. 

But Kelly is also a realist.

“(Parel’s) playing great and he’s a bomber, so he’s got short stuff into all the par-5s,” Kelly said. “But it’s possible.”

Parel’s 15-under-par total, on rounds of 63-66, is a tournament record for the 19-year PGA Tour Champions event. The previous mark was 13 under par, set by Tom Lehman last year. The lowest winning score since the tournament moved to Wakonda in 2013 is 15 under by Scott McCarron in 2016.

Lehman won last year’s title without hitting a Sunday shot when inclement weather forced postponement of the final round. Parel, who had shot 67-66, tied for second.

Parel was disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to chase Lehman. Now he’s the one that everyone will be chasing on Sunday.

“I don’t know about redemption,” said Parel, who won twice on the PGA Tour Champions last season and lost in a seven-hole playoff to Kevin Sutherland this year at the Rapiscan Systems Classic. “I mean, every week’s different. I like this golf course, and I seem to play pretty well here.”

Parel knows his name isn’t on the first-place check for $277,500 quite yet.

“I’ve played with these guys enough to know that somebody  back there is probably going to shoot 7 or 9 under somewhere. I think we’re going to have even nicer conditions (Sunday). So there’s no let up. Pars are generally not good. I doubt that 15 under’s going to win this golf tournament.”

Two other factors weigh in Parel’s favor. He’s the only player in the 78-player field to get around Wakonda without a bogey in the first two rounds.

And only once in 36 holes has Parel had a number higher than 4 on his scorecard. That came at the par-5 13th, where he three-putted for par Saturday.

“I wish I hadn’t three-putted that one,” Parel said.

Kelly, who has won three times on both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions during his career, also played bogey-free golf  on Saturday while posting a second consecutive 67.  Kelly tied for sixth in last year’s Principal Charity Classic.

Dawson, who won two PGA Tour Champions tournaments in 2015 and has four Top 10s this season, including a runner-up finish at the Oasis Championship, had a rollercoaster round of 65. 

Dawson’s scorecard included three bogeys, six pars, eight birdies and an eagle at the par-5 5thhole. Dawson faces an uphill climb in Sunday’s final round, but he won’t change his strategy on the first tee.

“I don’t think so, in the beginning,” Dawson said. “You don’t have any control over his game, he doesn’t have control over your game. So if he plays great, great. You just go out and play the best you can, and stick with what got you there.”

Gene Sauers, David Toms and Billy Andrade will start the final round in a tie for fourth, six shots back. Sauers birdied six straight holes starting at No. 11 and shot a second-round 68. Toms, a major champion on both the PGA Tour (2001 PGA Championship) and PGA Tour Champions (2018 U.S. Senior Open), shot 68. Andrade, who tied for second here in 2016, shot 69.

Parel first tried to get into the Principal Charity Classic through Monday qualifying in 2015 after he turned 50. He was playing on the Tour at the time, and had become friends with former Iowa State star Chris Baker.

The qualifier was held at Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City. Parel told Baker he wouldn’t have time to get in a practice round, and asked his friend if the course was one that needed some local knowledge to succeed at.

“He said, “Oh, no, you can play Tournament Club of Iowa blind, it’s right in front of you,’ ” Parel recalled. “Three of the first five holes, I didn’t have any idea what was going on. So I gave it to him pretty good the next time I saw him.”

Parel didn’t get through the qualifier. He wrote former tournament director Greg Conrad asking for a sponsor’s exemption in 2016, but didn’t get one. While Parel was back at TCI preparing for another qualifier in 2017, someone dropped out of the field and Conrad offered him the spot.

Parel tied for 37thin 2016, and tied for 40thin 2017. But he’s had much more success the past two years.

As fate would have it, Baker heads into Sunday with a four-shot lead in the Tour event in Wichita, Kan.

“Chris is a good guy, and he’s got a lot of game,” Parel said. “He’s due to win out there.”

All signs point to Parel winning on Sunday, too.

“You know, I’m living the dream here,” Parel said. “This is a pretty good spot to be in. Win, lose or draw, it’s fantastic to get to play with these guys and play for a living, so I’ve got no reason to be upset about anything one way or another.”

Goosen Entering Hall of Fame After PCC

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Retief Goosen has had more than golf on his mind in recent weeks.

He will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on June 10 at Pebble Beach, Calif.

“Obviously I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time,” said the two-time U.S. Open champion, who is making his first appearance in the Principal Charity Classic this week. 

Goosen got the news on his induction in October, in a phone call from Gary Player.

“We’ve got everything worked out now,” Goosen said. “People from all over the world are coming (to the ceremony). Next week is for catching up with friends in San Francisco for five days, then we’ll go down to Pebble and do all the stuff there. Once that is over, it will be back to concentrating on golf.”

Goosen has won 33 tournaments worldwide, including U.S. Opens at Southern Hills in 2001 and Shinnecock Hills in 2004.  He won seven times on the PGA Tour, 12 times on the European Tour, eight times on the Southern Africa Tour and three times on the Asian PGA.

Now 50 years old, Goosen became eligible for the PGA Tour Champions in February. He made his debut at the Oasis Championship, and is playing in his ninth PGA Tour Champions event this week. 

Goosen is coming off a career-best fourth-place finish last week at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill.  He also tied for second in the Chubb Classic in his second tournament, but has struggled with his wedge play in his new surroundings.

“I’m just not good enough to play on the other tour any more,” said Goosen, who has shot 71-69 in his first two trips around the Wakonda Club. “So I was looking forward to the PGA Tour Champions, and catching up with the guys I haven’t seen for awhile. It’s been fun out here so far. My golf hasn’t quite caught fire yet, but hopefully it will come alive.”

Goosen isn’t concerned about the challenge of learning a whole new set of courses on the PGA Tour Champions.

“A golf course is a golf course,” Goosen said. “You’ve got to hit it down the fairway, hit it on the green and make a putt. For me, my short iron play has just not quite been sharp enough. That’s something I’ve got to work on, because I’m still pretty good off the tee, so I have a lot of short irons into the green. If I get that right, I’ll be hitting it close to the hole and I’ll start making putts.”

Goosen played 20 events on the PGA Tour last year, and he plans to play a handful of tournaments on that tour this summer. But he’ll spend a majority of his time on the PGA Tour Champions.

“My focus is out here now,” Goosen said. “I just need to get in a bit of a groove.”