Rick Brown Review: 2016 Principal Charity Classic Was A Winner

Scott McCarron won the BellSouth Classic on April 2, 2001, in Duluth, Ga. Five months later, the PGA TOUR Champions came to Greater Des Moines for the first time.

A sweet 16 years later, the Principal Charity Classic welcomed McCarron as its latest champion Sunday at the Wakonda Club.

For McCarron, it was his first victory in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event since that 2001 victory in suburban Atlanta. That covers 287 tournaments, the last 17 on the PGA TOUR Champions.

Sixteen years is a long time to wait. It’s also a testimony to the success of this tournament, which was played before record crowds and seems to get better and better each year.

This year’s field played for a purse of $1,750,000, which is close to what this tournament will produce for charity.

The 2015 event set a record by generating $1.4 million for the tournament’s “FORE Our Kids” designated charities as well as the “Birdies for Charity” program.

Beth Brady, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Principal, expects the 2016 event to set a new record for charity dollars. That means this tournament will have raised nearly $10 million in the 10 years Principal has served as title sponsor.

A crowd of 31,612 came to the Wakonda Club for Sunday’s final round, bringing the three-day total to a record 83,389. Attendance records were also set for the first round (25,058) and second round (26,719).

Many of those fans hung out at the “MidAmerican Energy Green Canyon,” one of the new fan-friendly areas unveiled this year. The “Green Canyon” included the 16th green, the par-3 17th and the 18th tee. Grandstands circled the 17th green, with an LED ribbon board created by local company Insane Impact to keep those fans informed. The new Hornitos Hacienda – home to “birdie margaritas” – was a popular “Green Canyon” stop as well.

The 17th green turned out to be a pivotal spot in determining Sunday’s winner. That’s where McCarron holed a 36-foot downhill birdie putt to take the outright lead he’d never surrender.

Thirty-six feet? Are you sure it wasn’t 30 or 35? No, McCarron will tell you, it was 36.

“I’ve been stepping off putts since I was 10 years old,” McCarron said. “I had a chipping lesson from Bill Rogers (a former British Open champion) way back then and he always had me step off my putts. So when someone asks me how far it was, I usually know. It was 36 feet, going downhill.”

McCarron put the wraps on his first career PGA TOUR Champions victory with a stellar second shot from the right rough on No. 18 that stopped just inside 10 feet from the hole.

McCarron made three practice strokes from behind the ball, addressed that ball and stroked it into the cup. A fist pump followed after the ball disappeared.

“Yeah,” he hollered, with a clap of his hands, as he walked off the green. And then he had to wait for the final two threesomes to finish before he could accept the trophy and the first-place check of $262,500.

McCarron didn’t watch the final two groups play the 18th on purpose.

“Out here on the Champions Tour we root for everybody,” McCarron said. “All these guys are my friends. I don’t want anybody to hit a bad shot. So I don’t even want to know what’s going on. I just want to do my own thing, and see what happens.”

Several players in those final two groups shook McCarron’s hand and offered congratulations.  The long wait – 16 years long – was over.

And it ended with some incredible golf. McCarron shot 68-68-65. He played his last 47 holes without a bogey. In fact, he had just one bogey the entire tournament. And when he avoided a second bogey on the par-3 9th on Sunday, he got the feeling it was going to be his day.

“I buried it in the lip on No. 9 and had a very difficult shot,” McCarron said. “I got it just over the green. I made about a 13-footer for par. That’s kind of what really saved the round.”

Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Billy Andrade both birdied the 18th hole to finish in a tie for second, a shot behind McCarron. Andrade’s closing-hole birdie was his record 21st of the tournament, erasing the previous tournament mark of 20 set by Gil Morgan while winning in 2006. Andrade wasn’t as fortunate. Victory eluded him.

“You know what?” Andrade said. “Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose, right?  But I’ll be back next year.”

That will be June 6-11, 2017, a week later than this year. Another year of planning to make one of the best stops on the PGA TOUR Champions even better.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Welcome to the Principal Charity Classic

The MidAmerican Energy “Green Canyon” makes its Principal Charity Classic debut this week at Wakonda Club, and Senior Reporter Rick Brown has a preview of the new hot spot across Holes 16, 17 and 18, plus other can’t-miss locations and tournament storylines. Read on…the 2016 Principal Charity Classic is HERE!

The MidAmerican Energy “Green Canyon” makes its Principal Charity Classic debut this week at Wakonda Club. I recommend that fans who come to the course looking for a hot spot to watch some great golf make the short walk from the public entrance on Park Avenue to the Green Canyon, which starts by the green at the par-4 16th and circles the par-3 17th. Behind the 17th green, fans will find a wrap-around LED board providing a ton of information.

Food, drink and merchandise are all in close proximity. I promise, this will be a festive place to be. You’ll be able to watch play on the 16th and 17th, as well as the tee shots on 18. And never have to leave your seat.

A second prime spot is the Kum & Go Oasis, featuring the Fuzzy’s Vodka Lounge, to the right of the 13th green. Another short walk from the main entrance, fans will have a stellar vantage point to watch action on the 13th green, the par-3 14th and the green at No. 5. Another happening place.  You won’t be disappointed.

Those who come and enjoy the surroundings will see plenty of recognizable names on the golf course. And here’s a random thought: It would be a Principal Charity Classic dream pairing, really, Mark Calcavecchia and John Daly.

Both their names are on the Claret Jug, one of the most iconic trophies in golf, for winning the British Open. Daly also has a PGA Championship to his name. But something very important in Iowa brings them together. Pork in king in Iowa. High on the hog has double meaning in this state.

Calcavecchia won last year’s Principal Charity Classic title while wearing bacon-inspired slacks and a bacon belt. He promises to wear them again when the official competition starts on Friday. The folks at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival couldn’t be happier. Daly? He’s high on the Hogs. As in the Arkansas Razorbacks, his college team of choice. Why not put the two of them together?

Calcavecchia and Daly are two of the headliners that fans will want to check out this week. Calcavecchia will be trying to join Jay Haas as the only players to win the Principal title back-to-back.

Other former champions in the field are two-time champion Bob Gilder, Russ Cochran and Tom Pernice, Jr.

Seven players who have been to the winner’s circle this season will also be here. Woody Austin won the Tucson Conquistadores Classic and the Mitsubishi Classic titles, and teamed up with Michael Allen to win the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Jesper Parnevik, who won the Insperity Invitational, will be here. So will Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic; Duffy Waldorf, who won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship; and Esteban Toledo, who won the Allianz Championship. And of course, Rocco Mediate, fresh off his 2016 Senior PGA Championship over the weekend.

For those who love the history of the game, there are former major champions Calcavecchia, Daly, Mark Brooks, Todd Hamilton, Tom Lehman, Sandy Lyle, Scott Simpson, Jeff Sluman, Bob Tway and Fuzzy Zoeller.

You want guys who have won majors while playing on the PGA TOUR Champions? We’ve got Jeff Maggert, Kenny Perry, Roger Chapman, Olin Browne, Fred Funk, Brad Bryant, Mark Wiebe, Loren Roberts, Cochran, Lehman, Mediate, Allen, Haas, Zoeller, David Frost, Mike Reid and Bobby Wadkins.

For the local angle there’s Jerry Smith from Oskaloosa, who won the Encompass Championship in 2015.

And when it comes to champions, let’s not forget title sponsor Principal. Principal is celebrating its 10th year as title sponsor. This annual PGA TOUR  Champions stop took a big step forward when the global company, located in downtown Des Moines, stepped up to the first tee in 2007.

Principal’s mantra, since that first press conference in the summer of 2006 announcing its title sponsorship, has been this: If the community supports this event, we’ll do our part.

It’s been a classic win-win relationship ever since. The Des Moines business community has followed Principal’s lead. Using golf as an avenue, Greater Des Moines has responded with more than $7.7 million in charity dollars. The tournament’s “Fore Our Kids” charities, as well as Birdies for Charity program participants, have used the money to enrich lives and plant the seeds to grow a better community in the future.

And if what I’m hearing is right, the record $1.4 million generated from the 2015 event will be broken this year.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 1: The Price is (finally) right

Nick Price needed a victory to complete this Principal Charity Classic trifecta: win, place and show.

And he got it, winning the title at Glen Oaks by a record four shots.

“This was a big day for me,” said Price, a gentleman golfer who owns two PGA Championships and a British Open title. “I think if I had not finished it off, it would have left a psychological scar in me because I couldn’t have played any better than I did this week.”

Price had taken a one-shot lead into the final round of the 2008 Principal Charity Classic and finished third. He also took a one-shot lead into the final round in 2009 and was the first man eliminated from a sudden-death playoff with eventual winner Mark McNulty and Fred Funk. Price shared the lead with Tommy Armour III heading into the final round in 2010.

“I’d like to win, yeah, I really would,” Price said after opening with rounds of 67 and 65. “This is a good course to win on. Without getting ahead of myself, I felt pretty good about my chances this week when I got here.”

Price was coming off a fifth-place finish the week before at the Senior PGA Championship, when his ball-striking was superb and his putting average at best. But he played with some friends at his home course in Hobe Sound, Fla., two days before the first round of the Principal.

“I shot 64, and hit every short exactly how I wanted to,” Price said. “The only thing that would have gotten in my way this week was me.”

There was one ominous cloud hanging over Price as he teed off in Sunday’s final round. He had a 1-7 career record in PGA TOUR Champions events when leading or sharing the lead heading into the final round. That included an 0-2 record at Glen Oaks. Price was well aware of that dubious record.

“I didn’t want to go to sleep on the lead and have to answer questions next year about being in the lead after two rounds,” Price said.

Armour, who had been on top of the leaderboard since a first-round 63, opened the final round with 10 consecutive pars. And he found himself four shots behind Price, who had picked up birdies at Nos. 4, 6, 9 and 10.

“Nick got ahead, and I missed a couple of makeable putts,” Armour said.

It was a pressure-free march to victory for Price on the back nine. His first bogey of the day, and just the third of the tournament, didn’t come until the 17th hole. He still went to the final hole with a two-shot lead, and saw it double when Armour made double bogey.

Price closed with a 67 for a winning total of 14-under 199. Armour posted a 71. John Cook (66) and Loren Roberts (68) tied for third, five back.

For three days, Price hit 81 percent of the fairways, and 76 percent of the greens in regulation. He averaged 28.7 putts per round and found just one bunker in his three trips around the Tom Fazio design.

“Sometimes you question your desire, and whether you’ve got it,” Price said. “I was playing so poorly my first two years out here.”

He hadn’t played poorly at Glen Oaks. Just not quite good enough to win, despite a 68.0 scoring average per round in 2008 and 2009. All six rounds had been under par.

Price won $258,750 for his victory. More importantly, his closing record improved to 2-7. And he had added a win to his Principal place and show.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

 


Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 2: Reversal of fortunes

On the eve of the final round of the 2011 Principal Charity Classic, Mark Calcavecchia made a prediction.

“I’ve played a lot of golf with Brooksie over the years,” Calcavecchia said. “He’ll be tough to beat.”

Calcavecchia was referring to Mark Brooks, the 1996 PGA champion and 2001 U.S. Open runner-up. Brooks shot 65-67 in the first two rounds at Glen Oaks, good for a one-shot lead over Calcavecchia. Bob Gilder and Peter Senior were another shot back.

“It’s a perfect course for him,” Calcavecchia said.

Brooks then went out and made Calcavecchia look clairvoyant … until the final two holes of Sunday’s final round.

Bryant had a four-shot lead over Gilder, the 2002 champion, with four holes remaining.  Gilder birdied the 15th and 16th holes to cut the deficit in half. But he entertained no thoughts of winning until Brooks hit his second shot in the water on the par-4 17th.

Brooks would go on to make an 8-footer for bogey to preserve a one-shot lead coming to the 18th.  Gilder hit his approach 30 feet past the hole. Brooks had 25 feet for birdie, and knew that if Gilder didn’t make his putt he’d have two putts for the victory.

But Gilder did make his putt.

“I didn’t want to run the thing four or five feet by, because it’s not an easy putt coming back,” Gilder said. “I was just trying to hit a putt that held its line, and get it started where I thought it was going to go. The putt looks like it wants to go left. But in years past the putt does not go left. So I putted it pretty darn straight. About 3 feet from the hole I just knew it was in.”

So now Brooks needed two putts to get in a sudden-death playoff. That didn’t happen, either. He knocked his first putt 5 feet past the hole, and missed the comebacker. And it was over.

“I’ve been leaving them short all week,” Brooks said. “I wasn’t trying to gun it by. I should have made the second one anyway.”

Gilder, 60 years old, became the second chapter in an amazing story. It marked the first time players at least 60 years of age had won on the PGA TOUR Champions in back-to-back weeks. Tom Watson had captured the Senior PGA Championship the week before at 61 years of age.

“I really expected to be going to a playoff,” said Gilder, one of two players to have multiple Principal Charity Classic trophies in his possession.

The other is Jay Haas, who has won this title three times. Gilder, who had struggled all season, was emotional in victory.

“This year has been kind of a disaster, until (Sunday),” Gilder said. “It’s been a long time. I’ve put in a lot of work. This week, things just kind of fell into place.”

Gilder shot a bogey-free 6-under-par 65 the final day, to go with rounds of 68 and 66.

That bogey-bogey finish led to a closing 68 for Brooks. And it wiped out what looked like a brilliant prediction by Calcavecchia.

“As you get older, you kind of wonder if you can do it again,” Gilder said.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Q&A With Jerry Smith, Iowa Native and 2015 PGA TOUR Champions Rookie of the Year

Iowa native Jerry Smith, the reigning PGA TOUR Champions Rookie of the Year, is returning to his home state to play in the 2016 Principal Charity Classic. Smith, 52, who grew up in Oskaloosa, actually made his PGA TOUR Champions debut in this very event in 2014, playing on a sponsor’s exemption. Smith finished 28th on the PGA TOUR Champions money list last season with $652,365 after recording his first career Champions victory at the 2015 Encompass Championship.

Q: Does the PGA TOUR Champions feel more like home to you now?

JS: I would say yes. I’ve definitely done a lot out here in a short period of time, which has been very gratifying and satisfying. I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I went to the (qualifying) school a couple of times. And getting one of the five cards the second time around (for the 2015 season) made the beginning of last year a lot easier for me.

Q: In retrospect, you made the most out of your opportunity in 2015.

JS: To come right out on the PGA TOUR Champions last year and do well early and be in contention in Tucson (tied for 9th) put me a little bit at ease.  This tour is just different than the PGA TOUR. Everything about it seems easier as far as being able to prepare. There’s fewer players. You play a lot of pro-ams, so you’re out enjoying some of those rounds. That’s how I address those days. Just go out and enjoy the company with the amateur players. You’re just not grinding so much, it seems like, as you were on the PGA TOUR. All the guys out here are just really easy to play with. It’s very competitive. You see the scores, week in and week out, and know what you have to do.

Q: Does it feel any different now, playing on the PGA TOUR Champions with a victory to your name?

JS: Winning (the Encompass Championship) last year was huge. It was just one of those weeks there in Chicago that I literally made almost everything I looked at the first two days and got the lead. And even though the last round was a little up-and-down for me, once I was able to settle down – which didn’t really happen until the back nine – I was able to get the job done there. That lifted a lot off my shoulders, just being able to get a win. It’s tough. I was in contention a couple more times. I was there in Biloxi this year (tied for third), and I just faltered in the last few holes there.

Q: And now you return to your home state as a winner.

JS: I’m very excited coming back this year. Last year I felt like going into Sunday, if I could have gone out there and shot 65 or 66 I would have a chance (Smith tied for 41st after rounds of 69-70-74). I really feel I can do well at Wakonda. It’s the kind of golf course that’s tricky for the guys. I think they’re still trying to figure out Wakonda. A lot of guys feel they can do well, they just haven’t done it yet. It’s a tournament I’d love to be in contention in. To be in the state of Iowa and have a pretty good fan base, it would be a pretty special week.

Q: Isn’t Wakonda the kind of old-style course you guys don’t see every day on the PGA TOUR Champions?

JS: It’s a different golf course than the majority we play out here, with the blind shots and the uneven lies and the slanted fairways. It’s tricky, it’s tough, and the guys know it.

Q: Does this seem like a regular PGA TOUR Champions stop, or does it feel different because you’re in your old backyard?

JS: There’s no doubt it is a little tougher. A lot more fans come and watch and pull for me (than a normal event).  In those situations you always want to play well. Any player would say they probably put a little more pressure on themselves to do that.  It is different. I wouldn’t say I try to prepare different. You want to say “Hi” to everybody, you want to acknowledge everybody, you want to say thanks. It’s a different-feeling week. But it will be fun. I’m in a good place (24th on the money list.). I feel like I can come in there and hopefully just let it go a little bit more and be relaxed. Probably for most of us, that’s when we play our best. I feel like I can do well at Wakonda, and I always look forward to coming back there.

Q: What do your remember about your first career PGA TOUR Champions event at the 2014 Principal Charity Classic?

JS: I was fortunate to get an exemption there from Principal. It was great. I remember I played with Fuzzy (Zoeller) a couple of times that week. I remember going out there and making birdie on the first hole as a senior golfer. I just didn’t play well enough and didn’t putt well that week (Smith finished T75, 73-77-77). But it was a great start, and very memorable. And a great beginning to something that’s gone beyond what I could have expected so far in my senior career. Something hopefully I’ll be able to keep building on.

Q: Keeping your card on the PGA TOUR Champions is an accomplishment in itself, isn’t it?

JS: This tour is based on what guys have done on the PGA TOUR. It’s based on the amount of wins and money. After that it’s about what is going on currently. It’s Top 30, and that will change next year with the playoffs. It will go to 36. Myself, not having any wins or near enough all-time money (on the PGA TOUR) to be anywhere close to being exempt out here, I’m the type of player who has to stay in that fully exempt status year after year to make things easier for me. Obviously, I’d love to have as many years out here as I can. To do that, you have to play at a very consistent and high level and you need to win, if not every year, an every other year type thing. And its tough. It’s hard to get out here. It’s more difficult out here than any of the tours, as far as keeping status.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

 


Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 3: An International Duel

Principal is a global company. The 2009 Principal Charity Classic was a global duel.

At the end of regulation play, three men were left standing: Zimbabwe natives Mark McNulty and Nick Price and Maryland’s finest, Fred Funk.

The three had finished play tied at 10-under-par 203. McNulty and Funk shot closing 66s. Price, the second-round leader, posted a 68. All three got to the finish line in different ways.

McNulty birdied the 16th and 17th holes. Funk parred the final seven holes. Price drilled a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th green to make it a three-man playoff.

“I watched his reaction, saw his fist pump,” McNulty said. “Then I heard the roar. Life goes quicker than sound.”

McNulty would go on to win, on the fourth hole, sudden death. Funk was a hard-luck runner-up. Funk had a 20-footer for birdie lip out on the 17th hole of regulation. And that was just the first chapter in Funk’s three-chapter “What if?” story

All three players two-putted for par on the first playoff hole, the 18th. Funk? Lipped out his 25-footer for birdie and the win.

Back to the 18th hole they went. McNulty got a good break when his drive caught a small tree the right rough and kicked his ball into the middle of the fairway.

“You make your own luck in this game, and I got a good break,” McNulty said.

McNulty then hit his approach to 12 feet. Funk did it even better, putting his ball 8 feet from the cup. Price, whose drive left him an awkward sidehill lie just outside a bunker, hit a first-rate shot to get within 25 feet from the hole.

Price missed, McNulty and Funk didn’t. And the two men still standing went to No. 17 for the third extra hole.

Funk had a 15-footer for birdie and victory. Again, his ball caught a significant portion of the cup, but defied gravity and spun out.

“That was the ultimate horseshoe there,” Funk said.

They headed to the 18th where the marathon finally ended.

Facing a 30-foot birdie putt on a similar line to the two putts he’d faced on that green earlier in the playoff, McNulty made it this time for the victory. He pumped his fist once, twice, three times.  Three tries, one big make.

“One was a little shorter and one was a little longer, but it’s uncanny how close they were,” McNulty said.

Close, too, was Funk. Any one of his three putts that lipped out would have given him the $258,750 check that McNulty cashed.

“All three of them should have gone in, much less one of them,” Funk said.

This was one of three sudden-death playoffs in the history of the tournament, and the longest.

“How many holes was the playoff?” McNulty asked when it was over.

In the end, fans were rewarded with a riveting finish.

“We were playing some pretty high-quality golf,” Funk said. “Mark won it. None of us gave it away. I’m just glad we put on a quality golf show. Us old guys can still play.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 4: New name, popular winner

Three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin stood on the podium outside Principal’s campus and said thanks.

“On behalf of the Champions Tour, we thank each and every one of you for letting us come back into your home,” Irwin said.

Principal told the world at that August 7, 2006, news conference that it had agreed to replace Minneapolis-based Allianz Life Insurance of North America as title sponsor of the annual PGA TOUR Champions stop in Des Moines.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the charity part of it,” former Principal chairman and CEO Barry Griswell said.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Principal’s title sponsorship of the Principal Charity Classic, an event will have generated nearly $10 million for charity by the time the 2016 tournament closes its books. Iowa children’s charities – and golf fans – have been the biggest benefactors.

They’ve had the chance to witness players like Jay Haas, who won the first of his three Principal Charity Classic titles in 2007. This was a one-sided affair. Haas was a wire-to-wire winner.

Haas rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a first-round 65. That last birdie was the eighth one on his first-round scorecard. The 65 was one shot better than Dave Eichelberger, who won the 1999 U.S. Senior Open across town at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

An adventure-filled second-round 67 gave Haas a three-shot lead over David Edwards. Haas made a double bogey on the par-4 8th hole, but responded with six birdies over the next seven holes.

Haas took the lead into the final round for the 22nd time in his PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions career. He had closed the deal in 10 of the previous 21 opportunities.

He made that 11 of 22 after his final-round 69 and a 54-hole total of 201, 12 under par. Haas led by as many as six shots during the final round. He bogeyed the final two holes, but still finished three shots in front of R.W. Eaks and Brad Bryant.

“I was glad we ran out of holes at the end,” Haas said.

Those final bogeys were only a tease.

“You can’t chase Jay down right now because he is probably the best senior player in the world and he isn’t going to make any mistakes,” Eaks said.

It was pretty clear that everyone else was playing for second at the fourth green. Haas couldn’t put any spin on his ball after driving it through the fairway and into the rough. His second shot to the two-tiered green ended up on the upper shelf. The pin, on the lower shelf, was 25 feet away.

Haas faced the almost impossible task of two-putting his way out of the predicament, which was magnified because Edwards had a 4-footer for birdie.

Haas barely touched his first putt, which picked up speed as it got closer to the cup.

“Hit the hole,” Haas said.

It did. In fact, his ball hit the back of the cup with authority, popped up in the air and fell in for an unlikely birdie.

“I was totally shocked,” Haas said. “I thought it was going too hard to go in. It hit pretty much dead center. That was the only way for it to go in.”

Griswell also felt like a winner after Principal’s first year as title sponsor.

“This week has been terrific,” he said. “I try to think what we could have done differently, and I can’t think of anything. Great weather. Great crowds. Great players. A course in great shape. This has been a great community event.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Principal Charity Classic Volunteer Spotlight: Cleo Brown

You may not know his name, but you know his voice if you spend any time near the first tee during the Principal Charity Classic. Cleo Brown, age 80, has been the tournament’s official starter every year. Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter Rick Brown (no relation….except for a shared golf gene!) recently talked with one of the Classic’s most recognizable volunteers.

RB: When did you start as a tournament volunteer?

CB: We (Dr. Robert Brooks and Brown) started in 2001, which was the first year.  I was a starter out at Hyperion for the Herman Sani (one of Iowa’s biggest amateur tournaments) and someone asked me if I would like to be a starter at the Principal Charity Classic. I said, sure, I’d give it a try.  That’s really where I got my start.

RB: Were you nervous or intimidated when you got started?

CB: I was not. I’ve always been a pretty good speaker in public and not one to be real nervous. I get more nervous when I have a 10-foot putt for par. I’ve never known a stranger, and I’ve always been very forward.

RB: Who have been some of your favorite players?

CB: I would say toward the top of the list, and maybe at the top of the list, would be Arnold Palmer. I met him the one year he came (2001).  He came up to me and he had a big ol’ smile on his face and extended his hand like he had known me forever, and I had never met him. After talking to him a little bit, you feel like you’ve known him all your life.

RB: Are there any moments that have stuck with you over the years?

CB: Probably Fuzzy Zoeller. He’s always just a character. He doesn’t like long intros. He’ll tell you, “Get on with it. If you’re not through, I’m going to hit the ball.”

RB: I’ve heard there’s another story centering on Chien Soo Lu and one of Wakonda’s majestic oak trees.

CB: Just a great guy, and funny. My sons were both there. Chien Soo Lu and I were talking and pretty soon he looked at that large tree that overlooks the first tee at Wakonda. He looked at me, and he looked at that tree, and he asked my son, Jim, “Which one is older, your dad or that tree?” I said, “Me.” He got on No. 4 tee, he looked down and pointed toward the oak tree. When he came back last year, he pointed at the tree.

RB: Tell me your story about Dave Stockton, and the year he was paired with Palmer.

CB: Palmer wasn’t on the tee yet, and it was close to the (starting) time. I was pretty new at that time as a starter. And I knew what the rules were, and he’s got to be there when the time comes. He wasn’t there, he wasn’t there, and I kept looking at the clock. Stockton came over, looked at me and said, “Don’t even think about it.” About that time here comes Palmer. They think, and golf thinks, that he was the instigator of big-time golf for them, and they respect that. And rightfully so.

RB: Have you ever had a pinch-me moment, when you’re watching golf on TV and you think, “Hey, I know that guy?”

CB: Absolutely. It happens very time, every tournament. I’ll always say, “There was a great guy and there was this experience.’”

RB: Like the time Tom Lehman made a request, and you did what he asked?

CB: I’m always on No. 1 tee, and No. 4 tee is relatively close there (at Wakonda). No. 1 has priority and they’re on the clock. We don’t start them early or late. It’s essential that they’re on time. And we have right-of-way on the first tee. That was when we introduced the players and gave part of their bios. Past champion of this, and this, and this. And Tom Lehman was the last player to be introduced. The player right ahead of him was getting ready to hit and the guys on No. 4 had been waiting for us to clear so they could hit. And Lehman says, “Don’t give me any of that long intro, just say that I’m from Minneapolis. That would be great and we won’t hold those guys up any more.” I thought that was really a touch of class, and I did what he asked. After he hit he came over, gave me a high five and said, “I appreciate you doing that.”

RB: Does it make it extra special to have your sons, Jim and Jon, helping you with the starting duties?

CB: That’s a great experience and the greatest thing. It’s an honor for me to have them there and to help me, and see he respect they show the other players. Because they’ve grown up watching these guys and they’re their idols. My boys are both good golfers and good gentlemen. And it’s my honor and pleasure to have them there and to work with me.

RB: Are you thinking about retiring from your starter duties any time soon?

CB: Each year I say, “Well, maybe one more year.” The pro-am is a tough thing. It requires a lot of work, and you find yourself running after yourself to get it done. But once the pros start on Friday, that’s a different ballgame, and it’s fun. When it’s over you think, “Boy, I’m not going to do this again.” But along about Christmas time and January and February, you start to get the urge. I’ll be there. They’ll have to carry me off (the tee).

RB: As someone who loves golf, how fortunate do you feel to have an event like this in our city?

CB: It’s fantastic. I love it, and the people back it and support it. I think it’s very important to have it here.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


New kids on the block and hangin’ tough

There’s something to be said about being the new kid on the block. Even at 50 years old. That’s the beauty of being a PGA TOUR Champions rookie, writes Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter Rick Brown.

A 50th birthday cake includes a new tour. A new opportunity to play golf at a competitive level, against guys you went toe-to-toe with during your PGA TOUR days.

And events like the Principal Charity Classic constantly reinvent themselves. Each season provides fans an opportunity to see the next wave of eligible players. Last year, Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III made his first appearance. This year, the new headliners include John Daly and Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

In the Principal Charity Classic’s 15-year history, there have been 309 different players in the field. The 2015 field included 14 new faces. There were 16 newcomers in 2014.

Daly isn’t the only multiple PGA TOUR winner or major champion playing in his first Principal Charity Classic next month. Todd Hamilton’s name is on the Claret Jug after winning the British Open in 2004, when he beat Ernie Els in a playoff. Earlier that year, Hamilton birdied the final two holes to edge Love by a shot at the Honda Classic. Craig Parry, a two-timer winner on the PGA TOUR, will also be here.

Eligible to play in 2017 will be David Toms (he turns 50 on Jan. 4, 2017) and Steve Stricker (Feb. 23).

That’s the reinvention I spoke of. But there’s always an exception to the rule.

Gil Morgan is the only player to tee it up in all 15 Principal events. He won the title in 2006 at Glen Oaks, the 24th of his 25 PGA TOUR Champions victories.

Morgan, who was this tournament’s first first-round leader back in 2001, turns 70 years old in August. And he’ll keep his Principal streak alive, too, committing to this event last week.

When the Principal Charity Classic made its debut at Glen Oaks in 2001, Daly was 10 years removed from his PGA Championship, and six years removed from his British Open crown. But his fifth and final victory on the PGA TOUR, the 2004 Buick Invitational, was three years in the future.

Daly got lost in the PGA TOUR shuffle in recent years, a card without a deck. He didn’t have a steady place to tee it up.

“It’s been pretty tough the last few years not knowing where I’m going to play and waiting by the phone on exemptions and stuff,” Daly said. “And now that I have a category here that I can play a few years and get a schedule going, it will be good for me.”

Jiménez has won three times on the PGA TOUR Champions so far, including this year’s Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic when he outdueled Scott Dunlap and Iowa native Jerry Smith over the final few holes. Jiménez also won the 2015 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and the 2014 Greater Gwinett Championship.

Daly and Jiménez will bring matching free spirits to the Principal Charity Classic.

Daly’s grip-it-and-rip-it style draws attention. So does Jiménez’s unique stretching routine.  And he is, as the late  Stuart Scott used to say on ESPN, cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Daly is expected to make the popularity meter work overtime when he arrives at the Wakonda Club.

“I hear people say, ‘John, you ought to be in the (World Golf Hall of Fame),’ stuff like that,” Daly said. “And I always tell people, ‘Look, I’m already in the Hall of Fame because I’ve got the greatest fans in the world. No matter what, through thick and thin, they’ve always stuck by me.’ ”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Top 10 Moments In Principal Charity Classic History…No. 5, Bringing Home The Bacon

Pork is king in Iowa. Mark Calcavecchia was crowned king of the 2015 Principal Charity Classic. United forever. By bacon.

Wearing both bacon-inspired pants and belt, Calcavecchia snapped a 66-tournament dry spell on the PGA TOUR Champions with a final-round 69 and a 54-hole total of 12-under 204. Joe Durant and Brian Henninger finished a shot back.

“This came out of nowhere,” admitted Calcavecchia, who had tied for third the previous two years at Wakonda and had finished in the top 10 in five career Principal appearances.

The bacon apparel and a putter he bought in West Des Moines earlier in the week gave Calcavecchia’s victory a real Iowa flavor.

First, the clothing. Brooks Reynolds, founder of the wildly popular Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, sent Calcavecchia a photo of the bacon-designed pants four months before the tournament and asked the former British Open champion if he’d consider wearing them.

Calcavecchia called them the ugliest pants he’d ever seen. He also asked Reynolds to send him a pair.

Calcavecchia wore the slacks in the first and third rounds, and a bacon-inspired belt all three rounds.

Calcavecchia missed the cut at the Senior PGA Championship. He and his wife, Brenda, attended the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and then came to Des Moines.

Calcavecchia, who grew up in Laurel, Neb., got a heavy dose of Central Iowa golf when he was in town. He played the Harvester in Rhodes, Des Moines Golf and Country Club and Glen Oaks in West Des Moines, as well as Wakonda.

He also found a putter during a visit to a local sporting goods store in West Des Moines. While Brenda went to purchase some energy bars and sports drinks, Calcavecchia headed for the golf section. One Ping putter fit his eye. He hit a few putts with it and bought it. It helped him win a first-place check for $262,500.

“Ping is fantastic about sending me putters and I’ve got 100 of them,” said Calcavechia, who has an endorsement deal with the company. “But sometimes you look at one and it just caught my eye.”

Calcavecchia started the final round with a one-shot lead over Durant. He never relinquished that lead, thought there were some serious challengers.

Durant held a share of the lead for awhile. And when Calcavecchia made his only final-round bogey at the tricky par-3 14th hole that enabled 2012 and 2016 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III to catch him at 11 under. Love, a former PGA champion, got in position to win with four birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at No. 11. But he went bogey-double bogey on the 16th and 17th holes and tied for fifth.

Durant also rallied to get within a shot of the lead with birdies at 15 and 16, but couldn’t get over the hump.

“We were all trying to put some heat on him, but he made some good putts when he needed to and that’s what you do when you win,” Durant said.

Calcavecchia’s victory impressed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who was at Wakonda for the final round wearing a Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival hat.

“He’s from Nebraska, that’s close enough for me,” Branstad said. “And he’s wearing bacon pants. We’re the leading pork producing state. We’re all for bacon. That’s great.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter