With apologies to defending champion Jeff Sluman, a look at this week's B.C. Open field won't find you many of golf's greats. They're not here. Sluman is the true headliner here. The New York native is 26th on the money list, coming off last week's win in Milwaukee, and arrives as one of the local favorites. Joey Sindelar of nearby Horseheads, NY would also qualify in that regard. But on down the list and you won't find Charles Howell III this year, or Bryce Molder, or even Ty Tryon who captured much of the attention a year ago as a PGA Tour hopefull trying to make the most of a sponsors exemption. Tryon is still recovering from a bout with mononucleosis.
All that said, you'd figure this event would be suffering from a bit of an inferiority complex. But guess what. It isn't. Really!
Choose to come or not, the people here put on a very good show. They've been doing it for years, sporting recent winners like Fred Funk, Brad Faxon and of course Sluman who edged out Paul Gow in a playoff last year for his 5th PGA Tour win.
And whether the big names are across the pond or not, this little tournament in the quaint village of Endicott, NY still has plenty to offer. Last I checked this week's first place check of $378,000 cashes at any bank nationwide. There's also a two-year exemption at stake. And a trip to Hawaii for next year's Mercedes Championships is also hanging in the balance.
So what exactly is the storyline this week? To be honest it might partially be the course conditions at En-Joie where a string of inconsistent weather hasn't helped its look for nationwide television. Players were actually made aware of the bad luck last week in Milwaukee so they wouldn't be surprised upon arrival. Well, now that everyone's here, nobody's chirping. It looks fine to me.
The real story this week though is about opportunity - and a great opportunity at that. This is a week for the young (Jonathyn Byrd) to break through, and the old (past B.C. Open champ Mike Sullivan) to revive. Perhaps men like Sluman can continue the march up the money list with a berth in the season-ending Tour Championship in mind. For others (Tripp Isenhour, Jess Daley), it's a great chance to cash a big check that might ease the stress of a potential trip to Q-School.
Call this tournament what you will, but don't sell it short of its purpose. Those who come realize what it can do for a career. Nolan Henke made the B.C. Open his first of three titles on the PGA Tour. Year's ago Hal Sutton revived his career here. And John Daly has roots here as well.
The fans here know their golf and they truly love their golf. And one drive down the roads of Endicott, NY will let you know just how much they appreciate their little slice of PGA Tour pie. It's the biggest show in town each year and I promise you they're hungry for more. Just give em' the chance.
Full Coverage of the B.C. Open