Charlie Wi is a 1995 graduate of Cal Berkeley, James Hahn graduated from Cal in 2003, and Max Homa, the newest Cal grad to hit the professional golf circuit and a member of the phenomenal 2012-2013 Cal golf team, graduated in 2013. All three of these notable Cal golfers are in the field this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
How can local golf fans expect the Cal trio to fare at this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am? Wi and Hahn have recent success in the event to look back on, and Homa, though playing without full status on the PGA Tour – and a first-timer in this event, started his pro career on a strong footing with a T-9 finish in his first professional event, the 2013 Frys.com Open.
Wi was the 54-hole leader in the 2012 AT&T, finishing second to a surging Phil Mickelson after holding at least a share of the lead for each of the first three rounds – a performance that was kicked off by a blistering first-round 61 at Pebble, followed by a pair of 69s at the companion courses in the tournament rota, Spyglass Hill and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course. Wi finish T16 in last year’s AT&T.
Hahn, a 2003 Berkeley grad, moved up to the PGA Tour in 2013 after a mixed post-college career that included stints in advertising and as a ladies’ shoe salesman at Nordstrom. After re-dedicating himself to golf (which the flexible hours in the Nordstrom Ladies’ Shoes department allowed him to do), Hahn found success on the then-Nationwide Tour (now the WEB.com Tour), capping a strong 2012 season on the developmental tour with a win in the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and a move up to the PGA Tour.
At last year’s AT&T Pro-Am, Hahn opened the tournament with a 1-under 71 at Pebble, and came back to Pebble Beach for the final round tied for first with Brandt Snedeker after posting rounds of 65 and 66 at MPCC Shore and Spyglass Hill, respectively. His final-round 70 was an improvement over his opening round at Pebble Beach, but wasn’t enough to keep up with Snedeker, who posted a near-flawless 65 on the famed seaside course to take the win as Hahn dropped back to a T-3 finish.
All three of these former Bears, two of whom are Southern California natives (Wi and Homa) and one who grew up in the Bay Area (Hahn) are experienced on the challenging poa annua-affected greens that are found at all three venues in the AT&T Pro-Am rota, putting surfaces that are found at most of California’s coastal golf courses. Poa is a fast-growing grass, really a weed, that is tough enough to survive the salty air of a coastal environment, and greens that have considerable poa content tend to get bumpy late in the day.
Pebble Beach is known to have the smallest, and most subtly-contoured, greens on the PGA Tour, and its companion courses in the tournament rotation, Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, are equally challenging. Local knowledge is of great benefit here, as is confidence in one’s knowledge of the vagaries of the putting surfaces. Add to that the predicted change in our recent run of clear, calm weather, with rain and breezy conditions forecast for two of the four days of the tournament – classic “Crosby weather”– and it looks good for this trio of former Bears, if they can bring their “A” games to the Peninsula this week, to finish well up in the standings.