Sponsors exemptions are all about hope

By Randall MellNovember 6, 2009, 2:44 am

Sponsor’s exemptions are all about hope.

Kevin Weickel of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World understands that truth as intimately as any tournament director on the PGA Tour. Over the years, the Disney event has often been the last full-field event on the schedule.

That makes Weickel practiced in the art of dispensing hope.

If you missed it earlier this week, Weickel and the tournament committee put a capital H in hope when they announced that Miami’s Erik Compton was being awarded their final sponsor’s exemption to next week’s event. He also received an exemption from this event last year.

Compton’s story has been well documented, how he hasn’t given up hope of winning his PGA Tour card despite two heart transplant surgeries. He will turn 30 the day before the Children’s Miracle Network Classic begins. What Weickel brought to the tournament for a second year was the special kind of hope Compton gives others.

On Tuesday afternoon, Compton will visit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Last spring, while playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Compton visited the same hospital. He met a child there awaiting a heart transplant. He also met a child struggling with a brain injury after an accident.

“Sometimes, it can be tough,” Compton said of the visits. “It puts me in a situation where I remember a lot of stuff I went through, but I know people don’t really have a vision of what’s ahead for them.”

Compton’s parents, Peter and Eli, taught him there’s a special gift he can give hurting families. Eli is the executive director of the Transplant Foundation at the University of Miami. As much as she gives of her time and talent to parents of sick children, she knows she can’t give what Erik can when he walks into a room.

“I don’t do this for myself,” Erik said. “It’s difficult to see people in such tough situations. So many times, people look away. I’m trying to give back, to show there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

A week ago, Weickel was immersed in one of the more difficult decisions the tournament committee has had to make, though he will tell you it’s never easy with seasons at stake, sometimes careers. He sorted through 30 requests for the sponsor exemptions.

“We take the time to examine every candidate and his story,” Weickel said.

When you’re giving out the last sponsor exemptions to the year’s last Tour event, there’s an especially heavy sense of responsibility.

For pros trying to finish among the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list, it’s a last chance to secure their Tour cards for the following season.

The requests for sponsor exemptions can come in like prayer requests.

Weickel’s the guy who answers prayers, or at least serves as the conduit to answered prayers. He makes recommendations to the tournament committee.

The committee presents four sponsor’s exemptions, two restricted, which must go to PGA Tour pros, and two unrestricted.

Rich Beem and Lee Janzen, both major championship winners, got this year’s restricted sponsor exemptions. Haymes Snedeker, older brother to PGA Tour pro Brandt Snedeker, claimed the first unrestricted exemption as winner of Golf Channel’s Big Break X: Michigan.

A week ago, Weickel’s choices for the last sponsor’s exemption included Rickie Fowler, one of the hottest young talents on the planet, and Jamie Lovemark, another promising young talent. They were both coming off a playoff loss to Troy Matteson at the Frys.com Open. There were others in consideration, too, but no choice seemed easy.

“Over the years, it’s uncanny how these things have a way of working themselves out,” Weickel said.

Such was the case this year.

Though Weickel originally expected to award the final sponsor’s exemption in the middle of last week, the Viking Classic’s weather woes provided an opportunity. The tournament committee decided to see how the Viking Classic played out. When the event was canceled, Fowler and Lovemark were able to carry over their top-10 finishes at the Frys.com Open to claim spots at Disney.

Though Compton received an exemption a year ago, his story was no less compelling to Weickel this year. The Children’s Miracle Network’s mission is “creating real miracles by raising funds for children’s hospitals.”

“Erik’s story resonates beyond golf,” Weickel said. “He’s an inspiration for golfers and non-golfers alike.”

Weickel found a man who embodied the hope sponsor exemptions represent.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.