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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.”


Parel Leads After Opening Round 63

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Scott Parel has spent much of his PGA Tour Champions career flying under the radar.

He didn’t arrive with a recognizable name from years on the PGA Tour, playing golf on the nation’s television sets. He took a long and winding road to success.

But he’s on top of the leaderboard after Friday’s first round of the Principal Charity Classic at the Wakonda Club.

Parel shot a 9-under-par 63 and takes a two-shot lead into the second round.

His name might not come with a buzz, but Parel’s golf game was elite on Friday. His 63 tied the lowest round shot in the tournament since it came to Wakonda in 2013. Billy Andrade shot a course-record 63 in the second round in 2016.

Chris DiMarco shot 65 and is alone in second. Andrade, who tied for second in 2016, is in third after a 66. Those three players are paired together for Saturday’s second round and will tee off at 12:55 p.m.

Parel said his lack of name recognition with the casual golf fan is not an issue.

“This tour is called the PGA Tour Champions for a reason,” Parel said. “I mean, most of the guys on this tour were champions on the PGA Tour. I’m just fortunate enough that they allow a few guys, that show they can play when they’re over 50, to be able to play with these guys. I’ve got no problem with nobody knowing who I am. As long as I play good golf, that’s all I care about.”

Parel was one of just three players to get around Wakonda without a bogey on his card. He needed just 23 putts, three fewer than anyone else in the field. 

“I putted great today, I really did,” Parel said. “I think I only had one putt that I think I should have made that I didn’t make. I made just about everything.”

Parel earned full-time status on the PGA Tour Champions the hard way. He played in 222 events on the Web.com Tour, winning once in 2013.

Parel got through Monday qualifying eight times in 2016 on the PGA Tour Champions after turning 50. That fall, he tied for first in the qualifier to earn status on the tour in 2017. 

He played well enough to maintain playing privileges in 2018, when he won twice at the Boeing Classic and Invesco QQQ Championship. 

Parel also tied for second , behind Tom Lehman, at last year’s Principal Charity Classic. Parel shot 67-66 and was disappointed when the final round was postponed due to inclement weather.

“You never know what’s going to happen the last day, but I would have liked to have the chance,” Parel said. “Obviously I like the golf course, so I’m looking forward to two more days.”

DiMarco, in his second year on the PGA Tour Champions, had nine birdies and two bogeys on his card. The 65 was the lowest round of his PGA Tour Champions career by three shots.

After nearly holing a 60-foot eagle putt on the 16thgreen, he made a birdie putt from the same distance on 17.

“You’re not trying to make that,” DiMarco said. “You’re just trying to give yourself an easy putt for par. I just happened to have the right line and it went right in the middle.”

Andrade jumped up the leaderboard with birdies on his last four holes. In addition to his tie for second in 2016, Andrade finished in a tie for 10thin 2015.

“I really enjoy this place,” he said. “It reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Rhode Island, the tree-lined fairways, up and down, a few blind shots here and there, tricky greens. I feel comfortable here. A lot of guys feel comfortable here. That’s why they keep coming back. It’s a course that fits my eye, I enjoy it and I’ve had some success here, but I haven’t won yet. Hopefully I’ll have my chance on Sunday.”

Seven players start the second round in a tie for fourth after shooting 67s. That group includes former British Open champion Darren Clarke, who came to town at odds with his putter.

Clarke shot 67 with a putter he bought earlier in the week at Golf Galaxy in West Des Moines. 

“None of them were really working last week at Oak Hill (Senior PGA Championship), so I decided I’d just go into the store and buy another one,” Clarke said. 

Clarke said that Jon Ward, the store manager recognized him.

“He came up to me and he said, “What are you doing here?” Clarke said. 

Mark Calcavecchia bought a putter from the same store and won the Principal title in 2015. He also wore bacon-designed pants in the final round.Asked if he’d wear bacon-inspired pants if it would help him in on Sunday, Clarke said, “I don’t know how far I’d go. I need to see them first.”


DiMarco in Hunt with Opening Round 65

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

It was an eight-foot birdie putt, with 10 inches of break, on the 18thgreen. The kind of putt that a struggling golfer, even one who makes his living at the game, often misses.

But Chris DiMarco drilled it, and followed it up with a fist pump usually reserved for the 18thgreen on a Sunday.

That putt gave DiMarco, who has been struggling mightily on the PGA Tour Champions this season, an opening 7-under-par 65 and put him the thick of the Principal Charity Classic title chase Friday at the Wakonda Club.

“It’s just been a struggle this year,” DiMarco said. “I finally made a lot of putts today. I made nine birdies and two bogeys, so it was fun. There’s probably five or six weeks this year where I haven’t made that many birdies in a week.”

DiMarco birdied six of the last seven holes on the back nine and heads into Saturday’s second round two shots behind leader Scott Parel.

This is the 15thPGA Tour Champions tournament of DiMarco’s career. He’s never finished better than a tie for 30th. His previous low round had been a 68. 

“Any kind of confidence breeds confidence,” DiMarco said. “To go out and shoot 65, I knew it was there. It’s just been hiding deep down. It was nice to kind of show its head.”

DiMarco is hardly a golfing neophyte. He was among the elite players on the PGA Tour a stretch, winning three times and finishing as a runner-up in a major championship three straight years.

He was on the short end of a three-way playoff at the 2004 PGA Championship, won by Vijay Singh at Whistling Straits. He lost a playoff to Tiger Woods at the Masters in 2005. And he finished second to Woods at the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool. 

DiMarco eventually fell out of the spotlight, and quit playing for more than four years while working for the Golf Channel and doing a radio show.

But he decided to give it another go as he turned 50 in 2018. And his old nemesis, Tiger Woods, has been his motivation.

“I was using Tiger as my role model,” DiMarco said. “Two years ago everybody counted Tiger out and wondered if he would ever play the game again,” DiMarco said.

Woods won the Tour Championship last fall, and the Masters in April.

Watching Woods return gave DiMarco fuel for a comeback of his own.

‘”I took four and a half years off from competitive golf,” DiMarco said. “The hardest part is getting your competitive edge back and feeling like you belong. Do I belong out here? Do I deserve to be out here? Yes. Do I feel like I can compete out here? You know, it’s been a struggle.”

Friday was a refreshing change of pace for DiMarco. 

“These guys are really good,” DiMarco said.  “I’m watching Scott McCarron and Bernhard Langer and these guys and how easy they make it look, and I know how that’s how I used to do it. I mean, a bad round was a 68. I’ve got to get back to that point. My bad rounds need to be a 71, not 76 or a 75.”


Chamblee Takes On New Challenge

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Golf has always been a part of Brandel Chamblee’s life, whether it’s been on the course or in front of a television camera.

Tragedy changed the direction of his career.

He had moderate success on the PGA Tour. Chamblee won the Greater Vancouver Open in 1998. He lost twice in playoffs and was a contender in several more tournaments, including a tie for second in the Quad City Classic in 1997. But his focus changed dramatically in the summer of 2000.

His second son, Braeden, was born two months early and died nine days later. 

Chamblee’s interest in golf’s grind went south, and he eventually lost his card in 2003. The competitive juices had dried up.

“I quit playing the tour for tragic reasons,” Chamblee said. “I lost a son. I just lost the ability, the motivation. I wanted to do something different that allowed me to be home. Having quit golf that way, I honestly didn’t miss it that much.”

Television was Chamblee’s landing spot. He went to work for the Golf Channel and is now the lead studio analyst.

“I’ve been so embroiled in television it’s almost like another life ago that I played professional golf,” Chamblee said. “My life is really about TV and studying the game.”

But Chamblee, 56, received a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s Principal Charity Classic. This is just the second PGA Tour Champions event of his career. He also played in last year’s Senior British Open.

Why the jump back into competitive golf? Chamblee gives Baily Mosier, who he married in late December 2016, the credit for that.

“My wife is a pretty good golfer,” Chamblee said. “She loves the game. Probably more than I do. We go out and play. She’s just been after me to try and see if I can get good again.”

So Chamblee will tee it up in Friday’s first round at 10:20 a.m. off No. 10 tee, seeing if he can find the right stuff again.

 I’m trying to challenge myself to do something that is completely out of my comfort zone,” Chamblee said. “Every now and then it’s good to scare yourself.”

Chamblee was also out of his comfort zone when his television career started.

“When I first got into TV, my earliest memories were being surrounded by people who said, “Sit like this, hold your hands this way, don’t hold them that way,’ ” Chamblee said. “I remember going on the air and thinking, “Am I supposed to say this or say that?’ You sort of get consumed by what these people tell you.”

Chamblee found out through experience that how you sit and what you say doesn’t matter if it resonates with the audience.

“I found four or five years later that you could say all the things they told you not to say, and sit in all the positions you were not supposed to sit in, and they’d turn around and tell you, “Great show,’ ” Chamblee said. “Why? Because you owned it. You were yourself, and you were confident.”

Chamblee has become a polarizing personality at the Golf Channel, gaining respect and criticism.

“I enjoy the work,” Chamblee said. “I enjoy studying players, trying to figure out why they do or not do well. Why do they not last? Who hits it long and hits is straight and lasts? That’s golf’s holy grail.”

Chamblee let’s the criticism roll off his back, whether it’s his recent spat with PGA champion Brooks Koepka or other issues that have come up in the past.

“I get attacked a lot on Twitter,” Chamblee said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. Everyone has a voice. I only care about a handful of people’s opinions in the world…my wife’s opinions, my kids, and a few people in the profession who I think are really bright. I don’t care about anyone else’s opinion.”

Chamblee, who builds his on-air commentary from hours of research, feels his job is to inform his viewers.

“I’m not speaking to tour players, I’m not trying to be their friends,” Chamblee said. “I don’t want to be their friends. I try not to take myself seriously. But I take my job seriously. I work at it.”

Chamblee has enjoyed his change of roles this week. He’s seeing guys he used to compete against when he played on the PGA Tour. Tuesday night, he and former PGA champ Mark Brooks were in Golf Headquarters in West Des Moines, changing the grips on their clubs side-by-side.

“I’ve known Mark since I was 14,” Chamblee said. “We played together at Texas.”

Chamblee’s goal this week is to give golf his best shot.

“My goal is to give this event my full attention,” Chamblee said. “I’m here to work on my body, my golf swing. I’m on a fact-finding mission. I want to see where I stack up. And then it’s back to work.”


McCarron Finds New Life on PGA TOUR Champions

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Scott McCarron is making the most of his second chance.

“I just have to pinch myself that I still get to play golf for a living, and do what I love to do at 53 years old,” McCarron said.

McCarron has become one of the elite players on the PGA Tour Champions, and it all started at Wakonda.

McCarron’s first PGA Tour Champions victory came in his 18thcareer start, the 2016 Principal Charity Classic. He’s won nine more tournaments since, and $7.6 million in earnings. Only Bernhard Langer, who has won 14 times and $9.7 million since 2016, has been more successful. 

“Sitting here now, the fact that I’ve won nine times since that one in 2016 is pretty amazing,” McCarron said. “But I’ve been looking at what Langer’s been doing over the years, he’s winning a bunch. I’m trying to win as many tournaments as I can, and put myself in position.”

McCarron birdied the final three holes at Wakonda in 2016 to win his first PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament since the 2001 BellSouth Classic.

“Any time you win a golf tournament, wherever you are, it always feels good coming back,” McCarron said. “And this one being my first win out on the PGA Tour Champions is very special.”

McCarron enters this week leading the 2019 Charles Schwab Cup points race. He’s won a tour-best $1,346,628, including titles at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and Insperity Invitational. 

“It’s still really early in the season,” McCarron said. “We’ve got like 15 events left or something like that. Having the lead right now doesn’t mean too much, but I can keep increasing that lead and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Trying to predict who will have success on the PGA Tour Champions and who will struggle to find traction is an inexact science. 

McCarron, who won three times on the PGA Tour, was prepared to make noise as soon as he turned 50.

“One, I think you’ve got to stay in good shape,” McCarron said. “That’s a big key. You’ve got to come here ready to play. I went and played on the Web.com for a year and a half just to kind of keep ready, to keep my game in shape. You’ve got to come out ready to play. I think guys who maybe take three or four years off and don’t play  competitive golf have a tougher time transitioning to the PGA Tour Champions because these guys are good and they go low. I think you’ve got to be prepared and ready to go right from the start when you turn 50.”

McCarron also came to the PGA Tour Champions hungry to succeed.

“I think that I’ve had success because I’m hungry,” McCarron said. “I wanted to play well. I needed to play well. I had a decent career on the PGA Tour, but it wasn’t a career where I could rest on my laurels and go retire off into the sunset with a bunch of money.”

UCLA INVITATIONAL.McCarron tees off at 10:40 a.m. in Friday’s first round. He’s paired with some familiar faces in 2017 Principal Charity Classic winner Brandt Jobe and Ken Tanigawa, who won last week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.  All three attended UCLA.

“I’m looking forward to that,” McCarron said. “We play every Tuesday together, Brandt, Kenny T. and I, and we have a great time. Brandt and I have known each other since 1983 and Kenny since 1985. We’re very comfortable with each other. I think it’s a great pairing.”

Tanigawa, the PGA Tour Champions rookie of the year last season, said after winning last week that playing every week with McCarron and Jobe helped his game.

“I enjoy Kenny’s company,” McCarron said. “He’s a great guy, and I’m really happy that he’s been successful out here. I believe he’s going to be one of the Top 10 players out here.”

Tanigawa is second to McCarron in the Schwab Cup race, and has won $863,168 this season.

Langer, who has won the Schwab Cup five times, is in third. Langer, who has been in Des Moines since Monday, was forced to withdraw from the Principal on Thursday. He had to leave to attend the funeral for his son’s father-in-law.

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?Tom Lehman won last year’s weather-shortened Principal Charity Classic title with rounds of 66-65. Sunday’s final round was postponed.

“Look, everybody loves to win, there’s no doubt about it,” Lehman said. “I would never trade in a victory for any reason or to win any way. However, it’s a hollow ending for everybody. For the fans, for the players, for the guys who are chasing.”

Lehman said that Wakonda will play easier than it usually does because of the wet conditions.

“Old-style golf courses are wonderfully quirky in a way,” Lehman said. “Like these fairways that have a lot of slope. So this week with the wet conditions, it’s going to make the course that much easier because the slopes in the fairway are not going to repel many tee shots the way they can sometimes. So when it gets soft here, the scores get better. When it gets firm here, the scores go up.”


Wakonda Club’s Rich Tradition

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

George Duncan was the first major professional champion to tee it up at Wakonda.

The 1920 British Open winner played in an exhibition at the newly-opened club on July 22, 1922. 

Ninety-seven years later, Duncan has had plenty of company. With 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke and 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen in the Principal Charity Classic field for the first time this week, the number of men’s major champions to play Wakonda has grown to 60.

 “That surprises me a lot,” said defending Principal champion and 1996 British Open king Tom Lehman. “Maybe it shouldn’t, because a lot of guys on this tour have won majors.”

The major championship list of players to tee it up at Wakonda reads like a Who’s Who of golf. The list includes Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Jimmy Demaret, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson.

Lehman is one of 11 former men’s major champions in the Principal Charity Classic field this week

Nineteen women’s major champions have also graced Wakonda. That includes players like Patty Berg, Nancy Lopez, Betsy Rawls, Jan Stephenson, Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Those collective 79 major champions have won a combined 249 major titles.  

Wakonda has hosted a number of significant events, including two majors – the 1963 men’s U.S. Amateur and the 1956 women’s Western Open.  

Wakonda has been the site of numerous big men’s events, including the 1939 NCAA Championship, four Trans-Mississippi Amateurs, a Western Amateur and a Western Junior. On the women’s side, there have been two Western Opens and a Trans-Mississippi.

The Ruan/MS Charity Golf Exhibition brought a number of elite players to town on an annual basis from 1975 to 1996. And there have also been many exhibitions, including Duncan’s appearance in 1922, Hagen in 1922 and 1925, Sarazen in 1933, Trevino in 1933 and Hogan in 1946.

“I knew the history of the course,” said Brandel Chamblee, the lead analyst for the Golf Channel who is playing in the Principal Charity Classic this week on a sponsor’s exemption. “I knew Deane Beman won the U.S. Amateur in 1963. I knew the course was well respected.”

But Chamblee was surprised to learn that Duncan had played at Wakonda.

“George Duncan played here?” Chamblee said. “No kidding.”

The Scottish pro had won the 1920 British Open in dubious style. He opened with rounds of 80-80 and trailed Abe Mitchell by 13 shots. Duncan closed with rounds of 71-72 and won by two shots. Duncan remains the last player to win a major and shoot in the 80s.

Two years later, Mitchell was in Duncan’s foursome at Wakonda.  Joining them was James Hubbell of Des Moines, who had won the 1916 NCAA Championship at Oakmont.

Duncan shot a 75 that established a new course record.  Hagen matched it when he played Wakonda in an exhibition on Sept. 17, 1922.  Hagen had won the British Open that June, beating Duncan by a shot.

Hagen is one of 36 World Golf Hall of Famers who have played Wakonda. Three of those – Goosen, Stephenson and Peggy Kirk Bell, are in the Class of 2019. Hagen is also one of 43 Ryder Cup players that are part of Wakonda’s history, and one of 21 Ryder Cup captains. 

The Principal Charity Classic continues to enrich Wakonda’s legacy. . A total of 26 major champions have played Wakonda since the club started hosting the PGA Tour Champions event in 2013.


FIVE QUESTIONS WITH FRED HOIBERG

By Rick Brown, PCC Senior Reporter

The former Iowa State star and head basketball coach is now at Nebraska. He played with John Daly and diehard Husker fan Larry the Cable Guy at the Prairie Meadows Pro-Am Wednesday at Wakonda. Afterwards, he visited with Principal Charity Classic senior reporter Rick Brown.

RB:It’s been awhile since you’re played in the pro-am here, isn’t it?

FH:This is the fourth time I’ve played. The last time I was played I was with Mark O’Meara (2013) and I left after the 14thhole. I had to leave to get back for an official visit by DeAndre Kane. That turned out to be a pretty good day for the Cyclones.

RB:After the Chicago Bulls let for you (December of 2018), didn’t you get to spend some time with your family?

FH:I got to spent a lot of time with Jack (his son who plays at Michigan State) after I was let go. I spent a lot of time with Coach (Tom) Izzo, sitting around and talking basketball for two or three hours in the mornings.  The family time was awesome. I was able to see the twins (Charlie and Sam) play all their games. I got to get down to Kansas to see my daughter (Paige). She just graduated last week, which is scary to me. I’m proud of her, and looking forward to the next phase of her life.

RB:Did you have the itch to coach again when Nebraska wanted to talk to you about the job?

FH:It got to the point where I was ready to get back to work. Carol (his wife) was ready for me to get back to work, more importantly. I found a great situation in Nebraska. It’s great for our family, with all the history at the university and the state. My grandfather being the head coach for nine seasons, and my other grandfather being a professor there for 30 years. Both my parents graduated from Nebraska. My dad got his PHD there, then we moved to Ames when I was 2. Life kind of came full circle to get back there.

RB:Are you building the Nebraska program using the blueprint that worked for you at Iowa State?

FH:We’ve got our scholarships filled now. We signed 11 guys from the time we took over at Nebraska. I think we’ve got 2.1 points coming back from last year’s group. It’s a rebuild. But I’m excited about the guys we’ve got. We’re doing it similar to how we did it at Iowa State with five transfers. Three will sit out, and two will have an opportunity to play right away as graduate transfers. We’ve got some high school kids. We’ve got a player from France I’m excited about. It’s been a complete whirlwind the last seven or eight weeks.

RB:Did you enjoy today’s return to Iowa and the Principal Charity Classic?

FH:It was a fun day. A lot of money is being raised for kids’ charities. That’s what it’s all about.