PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On the eve of the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships, David Feherty addressed the competitors at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort with a little pep talk:
'The tournament starts tomorrow but I just want to you know this,' said Feherty. 'This is golf. You're meant to suck, and you will suck this week.'
Not exactly 'Win one for the Gipper' in front of a packed house ready to go into battle. But maybe Feherty's logic was to hammer home to the participants that staying loose is probably the best way to succeed this week. After all, this will be the toughest Am Tour Nationals to win in history, with a record attendance of 500 competitors in the Senior division split up into six flights. 640 more participants will come to Sawgrass next week for the Under 50 National Championship.
A day after flying home from Ireland to cover the Notre Dame-Navy game in Dublin, Feherty was on hand to give thanks to the Am Tour for a charitable donation of over $63,140 to Feherty's Troops First Foundation, a charity supporting wounded veterans. The money was raised through 50/50 raffles at Am Tour major championships throughout the season. Tonight, Am Tour announced that the charity will be the official charity of the tour for 2013, as well.
With a colorful speech from Feherty and happy hour pleasantries exchanged amongst attendees, the attention now turns to golf, where the stakes are high. Winners of each flight will receive a Golf Galaxy gift card between $500-750, a lifetime exemption into the national tournament and a prized piece of crystal for their mantels back home.
Going back to a happy place
Three competitors should be especially confident in their chances this week at the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Tournament: John Damron, Ravi Kannan and Brad Polhemus.
What do they have in common? Each won the Golf Channel Am Tour's TPC Sawgrass Open two-day major tournament held back in January. Each hope to call on some positive vibes from the Pete Dye-designed Valley and Stadium courses to go along with rounds on the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club Ocean and Lagoon courses in the four-day event. Dye designs, after all, toy with the mind, both pro and amateur, unlike any other architect.
Polhemus, 51, has enjoyed a five-win campaign in 2012 and will compete at Nationals in the Sr. Palmer flight (4.0-7.9 hcp).
Kannan, 60, won the Sr. Hogan flight in a playoff over Mark Milman. Milman is back at Sawgrass himself, hoping for redemption but was bumped up a flight to the Sr. Palmer after a strong campaign that included two Am Tour victories (4.0-7.9 hcp).
While Kannan and Polhemus reside in the southeast, Damron, 65 made the journey from Columbus, Ohio. He decided to come to Sawgrass for the same reasons that thousands of golfers do each year: the infamous island green. 'I like playing good golf courses,' he said. 'And I always wanted to play No. 17. I'd been playing it on PlayStation.'
The 20-handicapper, competing in the Sr. Snead flight, admits that during the event Pete Dye got the best of him a few times. But the defining moment in his victory was sweet. The action was tight within his threesome, until on the 17th, his two playing partners found the water, while Damron landed safely on the green for a routine par.
'That was the deciding hole,' recalled Damron. His major win at Sawgrass was his only victory of the Am Tour season, so he better summon his happy thoughts on the Stadium Course quickly. His flight opens on the back nine of the Stadium Course in Round One Tuesday.