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