The Irwins won last year by one stroke over the Nicklauses, Jack and Jack II. 'We didn't realize we were in the lead,' admitted Hale. 'The difference this year (2003) is that Steve has gone from being an inexperienced player to an experienced player.'
The Irwins collected $200,000 for the win.
This unique format allows fathers and sons to compete together in a scramble. The fathers must have won a major championship. And once again, a grandfather and grandson are playing. Arnold Palmer and his grandson, Sam Saunders, are in the field.
Also in the field is Lee Janzen, who has taken on the role of father to play with Aaron Stewart. Stewart, the son of the late Payne Stewart, is now 15 and would certainly have played if his father were alive. Janzen has volunteered for that role.
Payne finished second to Janzen at the 1993 and 98 U.S. Opens at Baltusrol Golf Club and The Olympic Club respectively, and tied for third at the 1995 Players Championship.
After watching it the last four years and seeing the guys with their kids, it struck me that Aaron would be playing with his dad if Payne were still alive, said Janzen.
I thought he was missing out on something special. So I called my manager about playing with Aaron.
Janzens call came shortly after the 2003 tourney and the IMG, which manages the event, put Janzen and Aaron in the field.
Janzen was excited about shepherding his best friends son around the International Course.
I never talked to Aaron about it, said Janzen, cautious to avoid any disappointments. It was all a matter of the right timing.
Janzen, who was a very close friend of Stewart, has thought often of Aaron.
I saw him some at school, First Academy, said Janzen, and Id see him at the (Isleworth) golf course. Id see him on the range, hitting balls with his friends, or playing golf.
Janzen said over the years hes realized that the Office Depot Father/Son Challenge will be something special for Aaron.
My son is 11, said Janzen of his only child Connor, and hes got two or three years yet before Ill be able to play with him in the event.
The window of having that chance is short for Aaron. It was just a matter of the right timing. This will be special for me and thats why it makes sense for me to play this year with Aaron.
Boys need their dads, said Janzen. It will be tough on him. It would be so much better if he were playing with his dad. He may think, I wish my dad was here to see how I am doing. Im not sure what Ill say when the moment comes up. Im sure there will be a lot of questions. Ill try to handle it as best I can.