Thursday, July 5, 2012
Ideal Conditions at the 2012 First Tee Open
A low overcast hung over Carmel Bay early Thursday morning for the final day of practice rounds at The First Tee Open, and even had one of the aerial camera platforms been present in the skies above the course, it wasn’t blimp weather at Pebble Beach. The directors of the Golf Channel and NBC coverage of the AT&T Pro-Am dearly love to zoom in on idyllic scenes from their omniscient point-of-view high above Stillwater Cove and Carmel Bay – whales cruising by and spouting their feathery plumes of seawater, dolphins cavorting in the startlingly blue Pacific waters, dogs frolicking along the beach below the cliffs paralleling the 9th and 10th fairways – the whole gamut of shots that are guaranteed to warm the heart of any Carmel Chamber of Commerce member or local realtor. No, the low overcast enveloping the skies above the course would have kept Snoopy I or II, or the Farmers Insurance airship, in the hangar, or isolated above a rolling carpet of fluffy white fog. Still, while it was not a day to excite the creative instincts of a television director, it was ideal golf weather.
The calm, cool conditions meant no swirling sea breezes turning a well-played shot into a bunker-bound double-bogey in the making. It was just cool enough that the exertion of walking the course and swinging a golf club warmed you up instead of wearing you out, and much of the field were out taking advantage of the conditions. As course workers put finishing touches on the greens, tees, and fairways on the back nine, player groups were already on the front side, starting their final tune-ups on the iconic seaside course.
Groups including players such as Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and Fuzzy Zoeller, playing with their junior or pro-am partners, were out on the course taking stock of the conditions, trying rolls from different spots on the greens, chipping on from various spots around the peripheries of the greens – and despite the fact that there is money on the line for the pros, enjoying a great day on a world-class golf course.
In general, this week the eyes of the golf world are focused on higher profile events – the U.S. Women’s Open, at Black Wolf Run in Kohler, WI; the Greenbrier Classic, this week’s PGA Tour event, at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WVa; and the European Tour’s French Open at Le Golf National, in Paris; but a golf fan could do worse than to come down to the Monterey Peninsula this weekend and spend a day, or two, or three, walking the cart paths of Pebble Beach Golf Links and Del Monte Golf Course.
You’re not going to see Tiger or Phil or Bubba, but compared to the throngs who crowd the ropes when the AT&T or the U.S. Open are played here at Pebble Beach, The First Tee Open is a tremendous opportunity to see some great golf played on one of the world’s finest–and best-known–golf courses, with easy viewing, no crowds, and nearby parking. While the stars of the PGA or LPGA aren’t here, the field of Champions Tour players includes past champions of the U.S. Open, Masters, British Open, and PGA Championship, as well as Golf Hall of Fame members, and former Ryder Cup stalwarts.
These heroes of the greensward are joined by the crème de la crème of The First Tee – boys and girls from across the country who exemplify the goals of the organization, and who have earned the right to be paired with a Champions Tour pro in this unique tournament format – two days of Pro-Am/Pro-Junior competition, with the pay-to-play amateurs competing alongside of, but scored separately from, the Pro-Jr. teams. Much like the format of the AT&T Pro-Am, in which the top amateurs play alongside their professional partners on the last day of the tournament, in The First Tee Open, the top Pro-Jr. teams will play together on Sunday, putting the youngsters on the big stage with playing partners who are old enough to be their fathers – or in some instances, grandfathers!
As the final day of practice wore on, the fog burned off – and while the breeze that sprang up at the same time was enough to make shots to some of the more exposed greens a bit more interesting than they had been in the morning, it was by no means punitive. The weather forecast is for more of the same through the weekend, with a mild warming trend – ideal weather for playing, or watching, golf on the Monterey Peninsula.