The San Diego Chargers may be leaving town, but pro golf is here to stay. Thank goodness. San Diego golf fans are rejoicing this week as the Farmers Insurance Open returns to Torrey Pines.
There are countless memorable moments that make up the 64-year history of the tournament, which got its start as the San Diego Open and was even played at the Rancho Bernardo Inn way back in 1964.
We asked some JC Golf teaching pros to weigh in on their special memories of the tournament and their prediction for this year’s winner.
John Mason, Encinitas Ranch:
I played in the Buick Invitational four times and remember one year my 12-year-old student, MacKenzie Kline played in the pro-am with John Daly. She played from the front tees and outdrove John on many holes – that made her happy. John just happened to win the pro-am and the Buick that year (2004) and it was special. I also remember Chris Riley, I think, hit his third shot with a wedge into 18 green tied for the lead and hit the flagstick and bounced back into the water. What a bad break.
Winner: Jason Day – he hits it very long and seems ready to break out.
Lloyd Porter, Oaks North:
Two years ago I was a PGA Ambassador in the pro-am. I chose Phil Mickelson and he was great. He was very personable, talked to all the pro-am players and was a big hit. We were walking down the fairway, talking about how his dad would take him to Oaks North when he was a kid. During a slow down between holes Phil took our group to another tee box and gave the group a lesson in chipping. He demonstrated the full Mickelson flop shot — two feet in front of us. And flipped the ball into his caddy’s hand – unbelievable!
Winner: Kevin Kisner –he’s currently ranked No. 1 in FedEx Cup points, played well in Hawaii, and Torrey has a history of “breakthrough” wins.
Grant Strobel, Woods Valley:
My fondest memory of Torrey Pines and the Farmers was when I was a kid. Me and three friends were sitting by the 16th green on the South Course. We were there all day watching the groups come through. Jesper Parnevik is walking up to the green after hitting a great shot. We all decided to wear our hats like his, bill up. We all cheered when he walked on the green. He ended up rolling in the putt for birdie, we went crazy and he threw the ball towards us (my friend grabbed it) and then came over and gave all of us a high five. We were pumped after that.
Winner: Charley Hoffman. Our hometown guy (Poway High) gets the crowd going on the back nine on Sunday.
Blake Dodson, Encinitas Ranch:
My fondest Torrey Pines memory was from 2008. I had the opportunity to play Torrey Pines after the conclusion of the Buick Invitational and the U.S. Open. I am still amazed how Tiger Woods hit 50 percent of the fairways and 80 percent of the greens. Then I play the next day. My only option was hitting wedge out of the rough. It was extremely difficult to advance the ball. Tiger’s ability to hit beautiful shots out of Torrey’s heavy rough still impresses me today.
Winner: Jamie Lovemark – he regained his PGA Card this season, after finishing the year on the Web.com Tour ranked fifth. His good play has continued with a T7 in Hawaii and a T6 at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hopefully a little local knowledge (he’s a Torrey Pines High grad) will go a long way for Jamie at Torrey.
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.