Clarke Ready to Enjoy Time at PCC

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Darren Clarke has always enjoyed taking a big bite out of life. 

“I still try to enjoy myself, and I do enjoy myself,” Clarke said, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. “People at home used to think I just played golf and went to the bar. But I worked really hard.”

Clarke, 50, a native of Northern Ireland, is in his first full season on the PGA Tour Champions and brought an impressive resume with him to this week’s Principal Charity Classic. 

He won 15 times on the European Tour and three times on the PGA Tour. He played on five Ryder Cup teams, and was captain of the European team in 2016. His victory in the 2011 Open Championship. his 54thcareer start in a major championship, was his marquee moment.

“I’ve sort of lived my life like a multiple major champion, anyway,” Clarke said. “I tend to enjoy myself.”

Being a rookie at 50 also brings a smile to Clarke’s face.

“Weird, isn’t it?” Clarke said. “It’s a bit strange. It’s great.”

Clarke is making his first appearance at the Principal Charity Classic. A man who cut his teeth on links golf has a new challenge this week. He’s taking a crash course on dealing with Wakonda’s rolling hills and tricky greens.

Clarke finished in a tie for 10th, 16thand second in his first three events this season on the PGA Tour Champions, but he’s struggled to get in contention in the weeks that have followed.

“I’ve got to putt a little better,” Clarke said.

Clarke is in Des Moines because he’s not lost his zest to compete.

“We’re all out here because we’re competitors,” Clarke said. “It’s a bit more relaxed. But as soon as the gun goes off Friday, the competitor comes out again.”

Clarke has found that the level of golf on the PGA Tour Champions is higher than the general public realizes.

“The scores are remarkable for the severity of the courses that we are playing,” Clarke said. “A lot of people think we’re playing courses at 6,800 yards long with flags in the middle of the greens and greens that are running at 10 on the stimpmeter. It’s a far cry from that. I’m getting more comfortable. I’ve got to do a lot of work on my putting and try to sharpen that up. It hasn’t been good enough.”

Two moments in Clarke’s career stand above the rest. The 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s is one of them. The 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club in Straffan, Ireland, is the other.

Clarke was playing in that 2006 Ryder Cup weeks after his wife, Heather, had passed away from breast cancer.  European captain Ian Woosnam selected him as an at-large member of the team.

“It was a very difficult and sad time in my life,” Clarke said. “But it was also a very positive time in my life because of the support I was given. It’s hard to put into words properly. Because my wife had just passed away. But she had said to me on her death bed, “If Woosie asks you to play, play.’ ”

Clarke did play, winning all three of his matches as the European team won, 18.5-9.5. 

“Looking back, to it, the support I received from the American team, the American fans and our home fans as well really helped me,” Clarke said.

His singles match, against Iowa native Zach Johnson, ended on the 16thgreen. Tears came to Clarke’s eyes when he shook hands with Johnson following his 3 and 2 victory. There was not a dry eye to be had.

“People go through that all the time,” Clarke said. “It just so happens mine was in the public eye. People lose wives to cancer, or husbands to cancer. It would be a lie if I told you I went into it without trepidation. But the support everyone gave me was incredible.”

Clarke’s 2011 Open Championship completed a lifelong dream.

“The party afterwards was a nice week as well,” Clarke said.

Darren’s career also includes victories on the South African Tour and Japan Tour. Now he finds himself playing in the middle of Iowa.

“When you think about getting around the country and getting around the world, we’re very fortunate as professional golfers,” Clarke said. “I’ve traveled and played in places around the world. No other job would have afforded me the pleasure of doing that. I’ve been introduced to different people, different cultures, different beers from all over the world.”


Lehman’s success the fruits of earlier struggles

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Fifteen players have won a tournament on the Web.com Tour, PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions during their careers. 

Defending Principal Charity Classic champion Tom Lehman is one of those 15. He’s also the only man to be named player of the year on all three tours.

Lehman struggled to get established on the PGA Tour, with a heavy dose of playing in Asia and the mini-tours. Those rocky times make him appreciate his success even more.

“I do think that having to fight and grind and go about it the hard way made finally being successful more enjoyable,” Lehman said. “No doubt. I would not change the early struggles for anything. I think that really helped me to learn the value of fighting for every single shot, no matter what the circumstance, no matter where I’m at in the tournament. To this day it matters to me even if I’m in 40thplace. I’d rather finish 35ththan 47th.”

Lehman’s competitive zest is a reflection of the tough times in his professional life.

“That just kind of comes from playing for no money on the mini-tour and overseas, where every shot mattered,” Lehman said. “That’s one of the great lessons, where golf in South Africa or Asia or the mini-tours or wherever around the world, really benefitted me, is that refusal to be okay with wasting shots. Now you do waste shots, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not because you’ve given up. It’s because you simply hit a bad shot, or made a bad chip, or made a bad read, or whatever. But it’s not because I just don’t care.”

Lehman won last season’s rain-shortenend event with rounds of 66-65. His 13-under-par 131 total was two shots better than Bernhard Langer, Scott Parel, Glen Day and Woody Austin. 

Lehman’s final hole of Saturday’s second round was also his only bogey of the tournament. He hit his approach to the 18thover the green and couldn’t get up-and-down. Lehman had a best-ball 61 for his two rounds.

“If you drive the ball well you’re going to be able to be more aggressive, for certain,” Lehman said. “So I think that really is the key to playing well, is to play the par-3s well and drive the ball in the fairway. That gives you the opportunity. Because if you have a good week with the irons, where you’re on, with those shorter irons mostly, you’re going to hit a lot of irons close and you’re probably going to make a few putts.”

LANGER’S IMPRESSIVE RESUME 

Langer’s PGA Tour Champions record has been nothing short of spectacular.

From his 39 victories to an unprecedented $27, 594,658 in earnings, Langer’s career is the envy of most. But of all his eye-popping statistics, the most impressive might be this fact.

Of the 27 events on the 2019 PGA Tour Champions schedule, Langer has won all but nine of them. The Principal Charity Classic is one of those nine.

Langer has had his chances at Wakonda. He finished fourth in 2017, shooting  66-71-67 to finish two shots behind Brandt Jobe. And he shot 64-69 in last season’s rain-shortened event which left him in a tie for second behind Tom Lehman. In four appearances at Wakonda, Langer has a 69.73 stroke average.

The two-time Masters champion has finished in the Top 15 in all eight appearances this season. A victory at the Oasis Championship was one of five Top 10s.

Langer has not played in two of the nine events he hasn’t won – the Mastercard Japan Championship and the Sanford International.

Langer has won the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race five times in his career, and is in contention for a sixth. He is currently third in the standings. 

Scott McCarron, the 2016 Principal Charity Classic champion, is leading the Schwab Cup this season. He’s won twice on the PGA Tour Champions this year, has seven Top 10s and won $1,346,628.

His former UCLA teammate Ken Tanigawa, who won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill last week by a shot over McCarron, is second on the Schwab point list. Rounding out the top five, behind Langer, are Kirk Triplett and David Toms. 

The top five players, and 26 of the top 30 players on the Schwab Cup list, are in the field this week.


2019 PCC Boasts Strong Field

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Doug Habgood traveled to Biloxi, Miss., at the end of March to do some recruiting.

The tournament director of the Principal Charity Classic attended the Rapiscan Systems Classic, where he chatted up several players in an attempt to get them to come to Des Moines.

One of the players he reached out to was Vijay Singh. But Habgood’s pursuit of the World Golf Hall of Famer ended when he learned that Singh had committed to the Memorial on the PGA Tour, which is played opposite the Principal Charity Classic.

So Habgood got a pleasant surprise at 7:30 a.m. on May 25, the final day players could enter the Principal Charity Classic. Singh had changed his mind, and will make his Des Moines debut this week.

“That was great news,” Habgood said.

The 19thannual PGA Tour Champions stop has an impressive list of first-timers in the field.

Singh, who won 34 times on the PGA Tour, including the 2000 Masters and the 1998 and 2004 PGA Championship, and has added four victories on the PGA Tour Champions, won’t be the only major champion making his first stop in Des Moines. Also in the field is 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke and 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.

Those three will bring an international flavor to the field. Singh is from Fiji, Clarke from Northern Ireland and Goosen from South Africa.

“This tour is U.S.-heavy,” Habgood said. “So getting more and more foreign players, especially decorated foreign players, is big. Just look at all the other tours. But this one, you look at the flags and you see a lot of stars and stripes. Now we’re starting to get more of these guys that are well decorated and turning 50.”

The Principal Charity Classic has had two foreign winners – Mark McNulty of Zimbabwe in 2009 and Nick Price, also of Zimbabwe, in 2010.

Price, who won the 1992 and 1994 PGA Championship and the 1994 British Open, is one of three major champions who have won at the Principal.  That list includes defending champion Tom Lehman (1996 British Open) and 2015 winner Mark Calcavecchia (1989 British Open).

Brandel Chamblee, known best for his no-holds-barred analysis on the Golf Channel, and Gary Nicklaus, son of Jack Nicklaus, received exemptions and are two more new faces in the 78-player field.

“I think Gary Nicklaus is going to be a big hit here,” Habgood said. “And I think the timing with having Brandel Chamblee here couldn’t be better. Everyone has got Brandel on the mind. My interactions with him, he’s just a great guy. I think he’ll fit in well in the pro-am competition, the social settings, all those things.”

Joining Lehman and Calcavecchia as former champions in the field are Brandt Jobe (2017), Scott McCarron (2016), Tom Pernice, Jr. (2014), Russ Cochran (2013) and Jay Haas (2007, 2008, 2012).

Singh is one of four World Golf Hall of Famers in the field. That includes Goosen, who will be inducted June 10. Bernhard Langer, whose 39 PGA Tour Champions titles is second only to Hale Irwin’s record 45, and Sandy Lyle are the other two.

Ken Tanigawa, who won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship Sunday at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., is also in the field. Tanigawa finished one shot ahead of McCarron and two in front of defending champion Paul Broadhurst. Goosen was fourth. All four players will be at the Principal Charity Classic.

McCarron maintained his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup race for a fifth straight week and passed $1 million in earnings for the season. McCarron won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic and Insperity Invitational this season, with seven top five finishes overall.

“I love the field we’ve got,” Habgood said.  

That field will be playing for a sweetened purse, which was increased by $100,000 to $1.850 million. The winner will receive $277,500.

“Each player makes his own decisions,” Habgood said. “But whenever you can make an increase, I think they pay attention to those types of things. It may sway them one way or another, and that’s why we did it. It was definitely strategic. I think it keeps us in the upper echelon of the tour. And it gives some prestige to Principal and Wells Fargo and all the other sponsors.”


Tournament Director Doug Habgood Ready for 2019 PCC

By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter

Doug Habgood has called a lot of places home. But he likes to tip his hat to his roots.

On the Friday before tournament week, Habgood was sporting a Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap. The 46-year-old tournament director of the Principal Charity Classic was born in Malvern, Pa. 

He graduated from the University of South Carolina.  He lived in Naples, Fla., West Palm Beach, Fla., and Greensboro, N.C., while working for the LPGA. Hired by Bruno Event Team in 2003, he spent 15 years in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo., before moving to Urbandale in August of 2018.

Married and the father of three daughters, Habgood has adjusted quickly to his new environment. 

“I’ve found the geography is a little more diverse than you would think at first,” Habgood said. “This golf course sort of proves my point.”

Habgood has helped with the Principal Charity Classic since it moved from Glen Oaks to the Wakonda Club in 2013. An old-style course with rolling fairways and elevation changes that defy Iowa’s flat agricultural stereotype, Wakonda has undergone some nips and tucks since the PGA Tour Champions started coming through the front gate on an annual basis.

“The first year was just short of mayhem, just working out all the kinks,” Habgood said.

Wakonda is landlocked by the city of Des Moines on all four sides, making for some logistical challenges for Habgood and his staff. 

“But I like where it is geographically for the city, and I like where it is geographically to the airport,” Habgood said. “So it’s kind of a nice package here. And I think we’ve kind of grown into it. If you look at how we set it up the first year, there’s probably not one thing that’s the same.  Everything has been tinkered with. And we’ll tinker with it next year.”

In his role as tournament director, idle chatter is missing from Habgood’s to-do list for the three months leading up to the Principal Charity Classic. This year’s challenge was magnified because an entirely new tournament staff had to be hired.

“As of March 1 we had two employees, where normally we’d have six, Habgood said. 

For the last three months, time management has been an essential part of Habgood’s daily routine.

“You look at the value of certain initiatives and think, “If I go down that path is it going to help the event?” he said. “How much time and effort is it going to take for me to get there? So you start to evaluate which ones you think are going to have the most return, and you stay away from the others. A lot of it is sort of working backwards. You know where you need to be at the end, and how do you get there?”

As organized and prepared as Habgood is for a tournament, he knows that even the perfect plan will need to be adjusted on the fly.

“You’d like to think, “Hey, we’ve got everything covered,’ ” he said. “But every time that phone rings, or you get an email or someone walks in that door, you have to react to it. I know how many meetings I have in a day. But I don’t know that the casual member is going to walk in here and ask me something about the menu in a skybox, which throws you off and you have to react.”

In other words, thinking on your feet is a big part of the job.

“Absolutely,” Habgood said. “And it’s how you react, and how you handle the volume. Because it can run over you for sure. You can only control so much. If you were to sit here and think about the whole thing, it would overwhelm you. It’s an inexact science.”

Between now and Sunday, when the winner accepts his trophy and the first-place check  for $277,500, Habgood will put out plenty of fires that the fans in attendance will know nothing about.

“I’ve go to deliver what’s on my list so that I’m backing up my teammates, because I need them to do the same thing,” Habgood said. “If I come up short I’ve let them down, and vice-versa. Otherwise you’d be overwhelmed and you wouldn’t be able to concentrate to get things done.”


Q&A with Mike Small.

Mike Small has been the men’s golf coach at the University of Illinois for 18 seasons. He’s given the program a national brand, with 11 consecutive NCAA appearances, a runner-up finish in 2013 and nine Big Ten titles in the last 10 years.

Small, playing in the Principal Charity Classic on a sponsor exemption, is also an accomplished player. He’s won the PGA Professional Championship three times and competed on both the PGA TOUR and the Web.com Tour, where he won twice. Steve Stricker’s former teammate at Illinois, this is Small’s seventh PGA TOUR Champions event.

RB: You lived in Iowa for a spell, tying for fourth in the 1989 Iowa Amateur. What were you doing?

MS: I just graduated, and I wasn’t going to play professional golf, even though I had some opportunities. I decided I was going to get a job, go to work. I was getting married. I was going to do the normal American thing. I did it eight months, and decided I needed to play golf. So I turned pro after that. I made it on the PGA TOUR (in 1995). The rest is history.

RB: You were living in Iowa City for those eight months. What were you doing?

MS: I worked for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. But I quickly changed my dream, my passion.

RB: You’ve become the Bernhard Langer of college coaches, putting together an incredible string of success. How have you done that?

MS: We’ve developed a strong culture, a strong mindset. And the kids want to perpetuate that. We recruit good kids, first of all.  We recruit worldwide. We raised a lot of money and built some really good facilities. We’ve got a lot of people on TOUR. The people move the needle. We’ve sustained it, and we’re proud of that.”

RB: You’ve played in 10 PGA Championships, three U.S. Opens and three U.S. Senior Opens. Does that experience help your coaching?

MS: You play to be nervous. I’ve hit great shots in front of 30,000 or 40,000 people, and hit horrible shots. I’ve made a fool of myself. I’ve done it all in my career. I enjoy being out there and testing myself. But it also makes my coaching better.  When I’m out there, I’m feeling the emotions they’re feeling. I can relate. If you haven’t done it for five, 10 or 15 years, you tend to forget about it. So, I think coaching helps my playing and playing helps my coaching.

RB: Have you considered trying to play fulltime on the PGA TOUR Champions?

MS: If I’d never played on the PGA TOUR, I’d be thinking I might want to try it. But I played on the PGA TOUR. I know what it’s like. It’s fun, but I’ve got a good gig at Illinois. They’re taking good care of me. You never say never, but I’m in a good place right now.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


For Brandt Jobe, the Principal Charity Classic feels personal.

As the defending champion of the Principal Charity Classic, Brandt Jobe returned to Des Moines for a pre-tournament media day on April 23.

His stops included a visit to Blank Children’s Hospital, one of the event’s six tournament charity partners. It was a visit that hit home for Jobe.

He was in eighth grade, just into his teenage years, when he spent a month at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver.

He was suffering from Reye’s Syndrome, an allergic reaction to aspirin.

“One out of three live,” Jobe said. “At first they didn’t know what I had. They thought it was the plague or something. I was in a tented room. My mom and dad came in masks. My dad was a doctor. He was going crazy.”

Reye’s Syndrome was the eventual diagnosis.

“You can’t keep anything down and you start whittling away,” Jobe said. “Your body fights it or it doesn’t, and you die.”

Jobe’s stomach was pumped constantly, and he had IVs in his arm.

“I remember a big day was getting up, walking down the hall and walking back,” Jobe said.

Brandt spent time hanging out with an older boy who had the same diagnosis.

“All of a sudden he’s gone,” Jobe said. “He didn’t make it. I didn’t know.”

Jobe recalls ministers from his family church coming in one day to see him, and started thinking the worse.

“I said to my mom and dad, ‘What are they doing here?’” Jobe said. “I guess I got a little closer than I thought.”

All those memories come back when Brandt, a father of two, makes stops to places like Blank Children’s Hospital. He visited with several kids during his April visit. Jobe gave kids his bobblehead. He putted with several of them on a makeshift green, played video games with others. Kids who first kept their distance ended up sitting on his lap.

“If you can just change their day a little bit,” Jobe said. “They were able to have a little fun. That’s a big deal in their life. I’m glad this tournament is so involved with (Blank Children’s Hospital) here. That’s what it’s all about.”

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter


Principal Charity Classic Advance Notes from PGA TOUR Champions

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


News & Notes: Monday, June 5

2017 Principal Charity Classic
News & Notes: Monday, June 5
 
Field changes.
The following players have withdrawn from the tournament field today: Fred CouplesD.A. Weibring and Larry NelsonCouples, who was planning to return to the Principal Charity Classic for the first time since 2010, has been battling a persistent back injury. The above three players have been replaced in the field by Bill GlassonTom Purtzer and Gary Hallberg. The field list can be viewed here.
 
Tournament week gets underway Tuesday.
On-course activity officially tees off tomorrow (Tuesday, June 6) with the BNY Mellon Pro-Am. This event is closed to the public. Also tomorrow, the final four spots in the Principal Charity Classic field of 78 will be determined by the tournament qualifier at Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines.
 
Tournament opens to spectators on Wednesday.
The full pairings for the Prairie Meadows Pro-Am on Wednesday and the UnitedHealthcare Pro-Am on Thursday will be released at approximately 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Pairings and results will be available at principalcharityclassic.com.
 
Get tickets.
Tournament tickets start at just $20, and kids 15 and under get in free every day of tournament week when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Free admission is also provided for all active duty, retired and reserve military members and their families. Tickets may be purchased at the tournament gates or online at principalcharityclassic.com/tickets.