Planet Golf — 04 September 2015 by Candace Oehler
Schwab Cup Championship heats up

SCOTTSDALE, Az. — The weather may finally be cooling off in Arizona, but the Charles Schwab Cup competition is still heating up.

With just four events remaining on the Champion’s Tour, each of the top three in the points standings – Jeff Maggert, Colin Montgomerie, and reigning Cup holder Bernhard Langer – has a legitimate shot to take home at the Cup.

The ultimate winner of the $1 million annuity and the Cup may be determined at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, with 800 Charles Schwab Cup points up for grab, Nov. 3-8, at Desert Mountain Club/Cochise course.

This is the third time the tournament has been held at Cochise (2012, 2014), one of six award-winning Jack Nicklaus Signature Courses at Desert Mountain, a scenic, sprawling 8,000-acre gated community adjacent to the Continental Mountains, 26 miles north of downtown Scottsdale.

For last year’s tournament winner Tom Pernice, who beat good friend Jay Haas in a four-hole playoff, Desert Mountain is much more than spectacular scenery.

“This really is a special place for me,” said the four-time Champions Tour winner. “I’ve played all over the world and my hat’s off to you. What you’ve done here is beyond belief, really. The players just love it, and we wouldn’t be happier any other place.”

Pernice currently ranks 17th in the Cup standings, with no wins but six top 10’s this season. He was addressing the high-powered group of golfers, politicians (including the Governor and two local mayors), tournament organizers, and local residents/members who attended Charles Schwab Cup Media Day Sept. 1.

This may be the penultimate year the top 30 money leaders on the Champions Tour finish the season at Desert Mountain. The Championship will remain there through 2016 but, after that, its location is uncertain.

According to Tournament Executive Director Gerald Goodman, in response to the enthusiastic lobbying from the Governor and other interested parties in the room, the tournament was never designed to be anchored at one location.

He explained, “We have a new president of the Champions Tour, very innovative, Greg McLaughlin, and his vision of this tournament is more likely not to anchor it at any one place, but to move it around. It wouldn’t be unheard of for us to come back over the next years, but this tournament was never designed to stay in one spot, like the Tour Championship does in Eastlake in Atlanta.”

Arizona Governor Doug Doucey made the case for Desert Mountain, stating, “This tournament means a lot to our state. It’s quickly become a point of pride to host this high caliber event.”

He also cited the economic impact on the local economy through tourism dollars it generates, and the more important charitable impact on Arizona families in need.

Before heading out to the putting green for a 3-hole contest with Governor Ducey and First Tee golfer, 14-year old Michelle Koo, Pernice spoke about the high level of competition on the Champions Tour and how the “over 50s” are inspired by the younger guys on the PGA Tour.

“We try to keep up as much as we can,” he said. “We’re not quite at that level, but there are some players that can still play out here, and have had great careers in their former years, too.”

And he offered some advice to this year’s competitors as they make their way around the par 70/6,929-yard track.

“If you drive the ball pretty well around Cochise here, you’re going to have some good opportunities for birdies. So if you give yourself a lot of chances, you’re going to make some putts.”

The defending champion and the 29 other top Champions Tour money winners will all be looking for those chances come November.

Putting contest

L-R Tom Pernice, Governor Ducey, Michelle Koo

Podium group

L-R Gerald Goodman, Executive Director, Charles Schwab Cup Championship; Tom Pernice, 2014 Champion; Arizona Governor Doug Ducey; Dave Tibbetts, Charles Schwab Vice President & Branch Manager

Cochise

Cochise

Cup and trophy

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Candace Oehler’s deep dive into sports media began several decades ago when she won a trip from Seattle to Mariners spring training in Arizona. Noting that non-English-speaking Latino ball players received little, if any, media coverage, she fluently/en español became a pioneer in Spanish sports media, and eventually became known affectionately throughout the Latino MLB community as “La Veterana.” Candace has written for team publications and MLB.com; hosted her own radio show on several Spanish-language stations; served as producer/reporter/engineer for the Mariners’ inaugural season of Spanish radio broadcasts; and has been a reporter for MLB Network Radio the past 10 years. She was invited to Venezuela by future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel to cover rebuilding efforts and accomplishments of his charitable foundation following the devastating 1999 mudslides; worked in Puerto Rico for former Major Leaguers Joey Cora and Carlos Baerga managing fundraising events; and was the only female in the raucous locker room when the hometown favorite Licey Tigers won the 2004 Caribbean World Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Candace was introduced to the game of golf in 1992 by members of Seattle’s historic Fir State Golf Club, who had approached her to manage their (then) little fundraising tournament hosted by a shy, gangly 15-year old Tiger Woods. Candace co-managed the annual event for nearly 20 years, working with hosts that included Ken Griffey, Sr., Birdie Griffey, Mike Cameron, Nate McMillan, Warren Moon, and Dale Ellis. She became secretary of the club and the Fir State Junior Golf Foundation, and got totally, completely hooked on golf, learning to play on a set of Redbirds given to her by the club (apparently they considered her mother’s Patty Bergs a bit antiquated). She has since traded up to another set of Redbirds and a much more user-friendly golf environment in Arizona. And, once a prolonged stint on the DL is over, she can’t wait to get back on the course and continue lowering her current 21-handicap to ….?

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