Northern California golf fans were focused on the Silverado Resort and Spa last week as the PGA Tour kicked off its 2021-22 season with the Fortinet Championship.
California native and former Cal player Max Homo closed strongly to win his third tour title, topping former Stanford star Maverick McNeely who is still looking for his first tour win. A double bogey on the 17th knocked McNeely’s lead off the rails and his eagle on 18 could not overcome the three-stroke deficit.
Golf’s attention this week is on the shores of Lake Michigan where the Ryder Cup will take place at Whistling Straits. There’s plenty of enthusiasm for the event that will have a full house of United States fans with two talented teams facing off. On paper, the U.S. boasts the highest ranked team, but that’s meant little as the Euros have won nine of the last 12 competition.
Meanwhile, on the scenic Monterey Peninsula the Pure Insurance Championship will be way below the radar screens the same three days as the Ryder Cup. It will return to its traditional format after an abbreviated format last fall because of the pandemic.
Early fall is an ideal time to visit Monterey and this annual event brings together 81 PGA Tour Champions pros who will be paired with 81 First Tee amateurs from across the country. Amateur twosomes playing best ball and providing plenty of the contribution dollars will round out each group. The pro/First Tee pairings will be best ball, while the pros will play their typical three rounds of stroke play.
Friday and Saturday play will be split between the Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill with championship Sunday at Pebble.
Twice I’ve gone to this event on Fridays and, other than the Friday traffic headaches coming out of the South Bay back to the Tri-Valley, it’s been delightful. If you enjoy the day, there’s no way to beat the traffic—instead enjoy an early dinner and then head out of the Monterey area at 7 p.m. so you’re behind the Friday get-away rush that starts at 2 p.m. You can get up close with tour legends with minimal crowds behind the ropes.
There’s a strong field of pros although defending champion Jim Furyk and crowd-favorite Freddie Couples both will be in Wisconsin tending to Ryder Cup duties. Three-time winners Kirk Triplett and Jeff Sluman are joined by Mark O’Meara who has won the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble a record five times.
Three of the top four on the tour’s money list will play including leader Bernhard Langer, No. 2 Jerry Kelly and No. 4 International President’s Team Captain Ernie Ells.
First Tee participants from Northern California include: Enrico Diaz (San Francisco), Nikke Chindavong (Fairfield), Sydney Craven (Pebble Beach), Adam Cartozian (Modesto), Matto Bonadles (Ceres), Elyse Aragarin (Stockton), Charles Farrell (San Francisco), Amelia Garabaldi (Stockton), Hannah Harrison (Granite Bay), Calvin Kong (Cupertino), Ethan Liu (Elk Grove), Ellie Sand (El Dorado Hills), Sophie Thai (Los Altos), Rachel Truong (San Jose) and Hayley Wong (El Dorado Hills).
Play runs from 7:15 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and goes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday after the amateur field is trimmed.