"Santa" golfer playing in the Golf Channel Am Tour senior national championships at PGA West

By Jason DeeganSeptember 26, 2015, 12:30 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There he was - Santa Claus - in the middle of the California desert with a putter in his hand, competing in the Golf Channel Am Tour senior national championships on the Arnold Palmer private course at PGA West.

It seems Bryan Austin was born to be Santa Claus. He’s got the lush white beard. He’s got the belly. He’s got the jolly laugh down pat. 

Best of all, unlike most white-bearded Santa-wannabes, he has lived in the North Pole. Austin grew up in North Pole, Alaska. He lives in Highlands Ranch, Colo., now and has been a “professional” Santa in the greater Denver area since 2008.

“It is a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s all about making memories. When the parents bring their children to get pictures of Santa, they are remembering their childhood, the hope, the anticipation of a new year, and, of course, the gifts.”

Austin grew up in the North Pole with two brothers. He has experienced whiteouts and 75-below-zero temperatures and seen the northern lights. He was one of 16 seniors in his graduating class at the North Pole junior/senior high school in the 1970s. He later earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona (“so yes, I do know how to make Reindeer and a sleigh fly”, he writes on his Website, www.SantaBryan.com).

When his beard began turning white in his 40s, his Santa persona was born. That was right about the time he began taking golf more seriously.

“Santa has to do something during vacation,” he said, adding a smile. “It’s my exercise. I like competition. When I started I didn’t know a good course from a bad one. The Golf Channel Am Tour has taken me to some awesome courses. I’ve seen some views the last four years I never expected.”

He said he’s always been successful at sports – football, wrestling, soccer – but not golf. “I was a wreck,” he admitted. “That’s when I realized that in all of the other sports I had a head coach.”

He began taking lessons at a local GolfTEC, and dropped his scores from roughly 125 to the low 90s. His best finish this year on the Am Tour was a second-place finish in the Highlands Ranch Open in August. He is competing in the Senior Jones flight (for handicaps 16.0 to 19.9) at PGA West. The 72-hole, stroke-play competition began Friday and ends Monday when national champions are crowned in six flights.

Come November, Austin won’t have much time to play golf. He said he’s got 88 hours of private parties already booked. “It will get crazy,” he added.

He regularly performs an animated reading of the story “‘Twas the Night before Christmas”. And he loves to tease parents about the lumps of coal they get every Christmas. “Most people say they burn them. I ask ‘Did you not pass high school chemistry? What do you get when you apply pressure to coal?’ Diamonds,” he said. “I’ve been giving you a fortune all these years.”

Thanks Santa. All most golfers want is a new driver and a couple dozen balls.  

Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.