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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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.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.