A little wet weather wasnt about to stop the golfers at the 13th SAS Championship from taking a few shots in the Monday Pro-Am at Prestonwood Country Club.
They didnt take an entire 18-hole tour, but when the rain finally stopped in late afternoon players went through an informal two-hour competition on the Meadows course to let the amateurs play with the 18 pros on hand for the tournaments traditional opening event.
Eighty-one pros will compete this week, with nine Hall of Famers in the field, including Nick Faldo making his U.S. Champions Tour debut and Colin Montgomerie playing there for the first time.
Earlier Monday there was a skills competition at the clubs state-of-the-art learning center. Each player hit three drives for a combination of distance and accuracy, three wedges in a 100-yard nearest-to-pin type game, and then they tried to make the longest run of consecutive shots on the putting green.
Jim Rutledges team, with amateurs Bill Devine, John Kruszewski, Richard Nelson and Sean Devine, won the competition, followed by teams led by Jay Don Blake and Smithfield native Neal Lancaster.
Amateurs Chad Barnes won the mens and Jullie Campbell the womens longest-drive awards, and Bill Shotwell was closest to the pin.
I dont know who else says they won, but we won, quipped pro Jim Gallagher Jr., whose team actually didnt make the medal stand. I think everybody had fun making something out of a tough situation and spending time with the guys.
Ive started playing better at the end of the year. Ive got to drive it straighter. Its hard to get into that good momentum, but I finally got into it the second half of the season.
Mike Goodes, a North Carolina graduate from Reidsville who turned pro at 50, is in his sixth consecutive SAS championship.
The event with our ams was a lot of fun, said Goodes, who played golf at Reidsville High but not for the Tar Heels. Im striking the ball pretty well and have been fairly consistent all year. Hopefully Ill be good this week.
This tournament is terrific, and the food is always unbelievable. And the golf course is really good. I think the course is going to be perfect. I hope the Tar Heel (fans) in the gallery will adopt me, but that may be dangerous around here.
The public will be admitted free to the next three days of events, which will include Champions Tour practice Tuesday and the SAS Pro-Am with all the golfers teeing off in four groups with shotgun starts at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
Championship competition will begin Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., with live coverage on The Golf Channel each day at 2-4:30 p.m.
Today we took the hand that we were dealt and tried to make the best of it, mostly for the amateurs to make sure they got a good experience, said Jeff Kleiber, the full-time tournament director. Today and Wednesday and Thursday are the lifeblood of the event. Without the sponsors this tournament doesnt happen.
The legends of golf who wrote the history book are here. Weve got (nine) World Golf Hall of Famers in this field and 16 out of 17 winners this year. The first reason to be out here is the golf and the second is the great community event, from our food-truck Friday to the Blue 5K on Saturday morning with 600 runners in the WakeMed Families First Fun Fest. We keep adding more community events because that increases the impact we have and the amount of money we can raise for the charities involved in the tournament.
The most important news from Monday was the names of the four men who joined the 81-man field from the open qualifier at the Wilson Country Club.
Mark Mouland of Davenport, Fla., was medalist with a 63, followed by Mark Bucek of Winter Springs, Fla. at 66, Skip Taylor of Flat Rock at 67 and Gary Rusnak of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., at 69.