As we hang up a new calendar and welcome the new year, it’s time to look ahead at what 2013 has in store for the golf fan in Northern California.
The high point of 2012 for golf in the Bay Area was, of course, the United States Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, and while we won’t be welcoming the USGA’s biggest event back to the area again until 2019, when it returns to Pebble Beach, there is still plenty of USGA golf happening in Northern California in the coming year.
In 2012 local courses hosted qualifying tournaments for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Opens; respectively, Lake Merced Golf Club & Harding Park Golf course, and Half Moon Bay Golf Links. In 2013 Lake Merced Golf Club is scheduled to host a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open; information on a local qualifying site for the 2013 Men’s Open is not yet available.
Two USGA championships will be contested in Northern California in 2013: the U.S. Junior Amateur July 22 – 27 at the Martis Camp Club in Truckee, and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship September 21-26 at CordeValle Resort in San Martin, home of the Frys.com Open.
Another distinguished amateur event on the Bay Area golf calendar – and one which has been there since 1917 – is the San Francisco City Championship. The oldest continuously-played municipal golf tournament in the United States, “The City”, as it is known, is played at the Lincoln Park and Harding Park golf courses, and can boast as past champions such illustrious local stars as 1964 U.S. Open Champion Ken Venturi (San Francisco), 1999 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Julie Inkster (Santa Cruz), and 1969 Masters Champion George Archer (Gilroy). Deadline for entries is January 15; competition in the various divisions takes place in late February and March. More information about the tournament is available at http://www.sfgolfchampionship.com/.
Amateur events like these are well worth any golf fan’s time to come out and watch, as they illustrate so well the depth of interest and participation in the competitive game across the full spectrum of age and gender.
In the realm of professional golf in the Bay Area/Northern California, the Pebble Beach AT&T National Pro-Am needs no introduction. The AT&T is a perennial crowd-pleaser, the largest annual draw in the area for golf fans of all stripes. The tournament’s unique format, which features pro-am teams playing the full tournament over three courses, coupled with the unrivaled scenic splendor of the Monterey Peninsula, makes it a fitting opener for the Northern California golf season. This year’s AT&T Pro-Am will be played February 7-10.
Professional golf returns to Pebble Beach later in the season with the Champions Tour’s The First Tee Open, this year with a schedule change that moves the event from its early July time slot to the final weekend in September. The move to September is a good one for the tournament, as the weather on the Monterey Peninsula is generally more welcoming in late September than it is in early July. The lack of schedule conflicts with the PGA Tour that weekend may tempt some more of the PGA/Champions Tour crossover players to make the trip to Pebble for the event. The First Tee Open is a real treat for local golf fans – smaller crowds, budget-friendly ticket prices, and convenient nearby parking to watch championship-caliber golf on one of the finest golf courses in the world.
Next on the calendar for professional golf in Northern California is the Frys.com Open, played October 7-13 at CordeValle Resort in San Martin. With the institution of the wrap-around season for 2013-2014, the Frys.com Open takes a jump in prestige with its new role as the PGA Tour’s season-opener. The tournament’s new status as the players’ first chance to score FedEx Cup points in the new season should bring a deeper field to the event.
The Champions Tour returns to the Bay Area in the fall with their year-ending championship tournament, the Schwab Cup. Back in the Bay Area after a detour to the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2012, the Schwab Cup will be contested at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco October 31-November 3. The Schwab Cup has a long history in the Bay Area: Harding Park hosted the Schwab Cup Championship in 2010 and 2011 following a 7-year tenure at the Sonoma Golf Club.
Another must-see event at Pebble Beach Golf Links in 2013 will be the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational, November 19-24. A unique pro-am event which pits players from the PGA, Web.com, Champions, LPGA, and Symetra Tours, as well as club pros, against each other in a length-adjusted format, the PBI is another extremely fan-friendly event. Spectators can walk the fairways at Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Del Monte right behind the pros, getting a perspective on these great courses that no other event can offer. Admission is free, and parking – which can be an ordeal when the AT&T Pro-Am or the U.S. Open are played at Pebble – is convenient, nearby, and free.
Unfortunately, the Bay Area/Central Coast region will continue to be without an LPGA tournament in 2013. The distaff Tour has been absent from the Bay Area golf scene since the demise of the CVS Pharmacy Challenge, contested at Blackhawk Country Club, after the 2010 season. Also missing from the local professional golf calendar is the WEB.com Tour (formerly Nationwide Tour) event at TPC Stonebrea, which is on a one-year hiatus while the clubhouse at the course undergoes renovations.
The coming year holds lots of promise for Bay Area golf fans, with plenty of opportunities to see high-quality amateur and professional golf played on some fine area courses.