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Concord teen Sam Wimbrow to play in prestigious Pebble Beach tournament

By Ron Green Jr.
Correspondent
Ron Green Jr.
Ron Green Jr., a former Observer staff writer, will write golf columns occasionally for the newspaper.

Three years ago, Sam Wimbrow saw a brochure about the First Tee program and in it he noticed the opportunity for some top achievers to play in the Champions Tour Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.

Wimbrow, 17, will get his chance next week.

He is the first participant from The First Tee of Charlotte to be selected to play in the prestigious event, where he will be paired for three days with a Champions Tour star. Wimbrow would love to draw Fred Couples, but he is thrilled at the opportunity to make his first trip west of Nashville, Tenn., and be able to play in California at one of the most famous golf courses in the world.

“To me, this is a huge deal. It’s been a goal since I joined The First Tee. When I first read about it, I thought, ‘Cool, I want to do that,’” Wimbrow said.

Wimbrow, who is home-schooled, earned his trip not just through his golf (his handicap index is 1.9) but through academic and volunteer work. He was recommended by the local chapter, run by Ike Grainger, and the selection process included essay work and an interview.

The First Tee, spearheaded by the PGA Tour, reaches people ages 5-18 through golf instruction and life skills lessons.

When he’s not working on his game, Wimbrow volunteers at The First Tee of Charlotte, where he works with the youngest participants during the spring and fall.

“He’s just an outstanding young man,” Grainger said.

Wimbrow plays most of his golf at Rocky River Golf Club in Concord, and hehas// been grinding away to get ready for Pebble Beach. He didn’t have the results he wanted this summer – he tied for 15th in a U.S. Golf Association Junior qualifier and he tied for 10th in the Metro Junior Championship – but he feels good about what’s ahead.

“I just want to learn all I can from the Champions Tour players,” Wimbrow said. “I’m going to try to soak it all in. Having fun is my main goal.”

Swing thoughts

• The announcement Tuesday that the 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup matches will be at Bethpage Black in New York ended any thought that Quail Hollow Club might land the prestigious Ryder Cup.

There was a definite interest in bringing the 2024 Ryder Cup to Charlotte, but it became apparent during recent months that it would be elsewhere. With the Wells Fargo Championship expected to complete a contract extension through 2019 and the PGA Championship booked for 2017, the professional golf calendar isn’t hurting.

• If the vote were today, Tiger Woods would be the PGA Tour Player of the Year. The only way that figures to change is if Adam Scott or Phil Mickelson wins the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup this weekend.

Though he hasn’t won a major, Woods has had an outstanding season with five wins, including two World Golf Championship events and The Players Championship.

How hard is it to win five times in one season?

Since 1994, Vijay Singh is the only player other than Woods to win more than four in one year. Mickelson has never won five in a year. David Duval didn’t do it.

Woods has done it 10 times, which is why he makes the extraordinary seem ordinary.

• Woods’ season has been tarnished by rules issues. His illegal drop at the Masters almost overshadowed Scott’s emotional victory, television announcer Johnny Miller questioned a drop Woods took after hitting his tee shot in the water on the 14th hole during the final round of The Players Championship and his two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship created another firestorm.

Two thoughts: Woods doesn’t cheat, though his critics want to suggest otherwise.

And, Commissioner Tim Finchem said the Tour probably will look closely at whether to continue allowing viewers to call in possible violations. My guess is nothing will change but, personally, I’d like to see it stop.

To use Finchem’s word, it’s awkward sometimes. It also is potentially unfair given the amount of television coverage the top players, especially Woods, get compared to others. The scrutiny is different.

The players and officials should police the game.

• Webb Simpson has made 318 birdies on the PGA Tour this year and The First Tee of Charlotte is hoping he can make 10 more this weekend at the Tour Championship.

Simpson is raising money with his participation in the Birdies For The First Tee program and 10 more birdies will mean the initiative will have raised $20,000. The money comes from pledges that range from 10 cents to $10 for every birdie Simpson makes this year.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post ( www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Observer. He can be reached at rongreenjr@gmail.com.
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